Convicted Hunter priest to retire

TORONTO Catholic priest Tom Brennan will break a three-year silence today in a statement announcing his retirement over church handling of a notorious Hunter paedophile priest case.

Victims and their families expressed relief yesterday that Brennan, convicted in 2009 of a charge flowing from a police investigation of the paedophile priest, would no longer hold the position of parish priest.

‘‘Thank God for that. Finally some justice,’’ said a victim who described the church’s failure to act against the Toronto priest until now as an ‘‘open wound’’.

Brennan will express regret for the ‘‘terrible things’’ that happened to young boys at a Hunter Catholic school where he was principal in the 1970s and 1980s when the paedophile priest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a teacher.

He will express ‘‘sincere hope’’ that his retirement, from today, will bring peace to victims and their families experiencing ‘‘ongoing hurt’’ after he remained a parish priest following his conviction for making a false statement to police investigating the paedophile priest.

Brennan told police he could not recall boys, parents and teachers reporting sexual abuse allegations about the teacher-priest in the 1970s and 1980s.

In late 2009 a District Court judge rejected Brennan’s appeal against the conviction, saying he did not believe the priest could not remember the multiple complaints.

Brennan is retiring before completion of a church investigation ordered by Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright early this year after meetings with victims and their families. The investigation is considering whether ‘‘any act or omission’’ of Brennan’s while at the school ‘‘might be subject to penalty under church law’’, Bishop Wright said.

It will be finalised, but will not be made public.

It follows former bishop Michael Malone’s repeated refusal to take action against Brennan after his conviction.

In a statement yesterday, Bishop Wright said some victims of the paedophile priest would ‘‘probably always think chiefly of Father Brennan as the man from whom they should have received help and protection’’.

While Brennan had consistently stated he could not remember requests for help relating to the paedophile priest, he had shown Bishop Wright the statement being released today in which he hoped his retirement would assist victims in their recovery and ‘‘bring them the peace they justly deserve’’.

Brennan announced his retirement at services on the weekend. He will remain at Toronto as caretaker priest until a new parish priest is appointed.

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