Former Philadelphia Priest Pleads Guilty to Lying to Agents Investigating Clergy Abuse

Former Philadelphia priest Robert Brennan, 83, changed his plea to guilty Wednesday in federal court, according to court documents. The charges stem from a federal investigation undertaken after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released an explosive 2018 grand jury report on abuse in the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses that detailed decades of abuse by more than 300 priests against nearly 1,000 victims across the state.

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Then-U.S. Attorney William McSwain sent subpoenas to dioceses across the state asking the bishops to turn over files and submit to testimony in front of a grand jury if asked.

The Associated Press reported on that two-year probe that quietly ended as McSwain left office before President Joe Biden was sworn in. Court records showed FBI agents had interviewed at least six priests to determine whether federal charges could be filed.

Charges against Brennan stemmed from one of those interviews, in which investigators say the priest lied about knowing a man who alleged Brennan had sexually abused him while he was an altar boy at a North Philadelphia church. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March, and prosecutors have asked for five years of probation with two years served under house arrest.

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