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Former Marine testifies about alleged sex abuse by priest

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A tearful former Marine testifying in a sex abuse case rocking the Philadelphia Roman Catholic Archdiocese recalled on Wednesday the day he became deathly afraid of a priest he said had been a family friend but molested him as a teenager.

The former Marine said Reverend James Brennan, 50, molested him at the priest's apartment in suburban West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1996 when he was 14. Brennan is charged with attempted rape.

Also on trial is Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary of the clergy, who is charged with child endangerment and conspiracy over accusations he covered up abuse allegations against priests, many of whom were simply transferred to unsuspecting parishes.

Wednesday's witness, who said he was released from a mental health facility only days ago and has abused drugs and alcohol for years, said Brennan had been a family friend.

"He was like an uncle to me," said the witness, now 30.

The case not only puts a spotlight on the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the nation's sixth largest with 1.5 million adherents, but is worthy of attention from the Vatican, given Lynn's rank as the highest U.S. church official to go to trial in the abuse scandal, experts say.

The witness said the abuse occurred on an evening he spent at Brennan's apartment with plans to play golf the next day. He said it was the first time they had been alone together.

At the apartment, the witness recalled he was eating cereal and formed some of the pieces into the shape of a penis.

Brennan saw what he had done and told him, "If you want to stop this, you can stop this now," he testified. The two then looked at sex chat rooms and pornography on Brennan's computer, he testified.

"He was ready to masturbate in front of me," he testified. "I told him I did not want to do that. I told him I was not feeling well and wanted to go to bed."

He testified the two shared Brennan's bed, where he said he was molested and told the jury how he had become frightened of the man who had been such a familiar figure in his life.

"I was scared," he said. "I thought he would kill me or something. I didn't know, I was a little boy."

Defense attorneys have called the witness a "serial confabulator." In Brennan's bed, the witness said: "I just kept asking God to help me fall asleep."

The next morning he said he noticed he was bleeding. When he saw his mother, he testified: "I said, 'Mom, I think Jim molested me last night.'"

His mother did not report the incident to authorities, he said.

He said that years later he had been sentenced to community service for a crime and served out the obligation at a church where Brennan was pastor. There, he said, the priest hid in a shed and was masturbating when he came in to get a lawnmower. He ran away and there was no contact between them, he recalled.

Asked why he agreed to do his community service at Brennan's church, he testified: "My mom and dad were led to believe it was a misjudgment on his part and would not happen again."

Reuters is not naming the witness because he is an alleged sex crime victim.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)

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