Prosecutors called the woman in a bid to bolster their claim that Brennan tried to rape the teen. They say his codefendant, Msgr. William J. Lynn, the former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, knew or had reason to suspect that Brennan would sexually abuse minors.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
The woman's testimony came a week after her son, now 30, spent two tense days on the witness stand, the first describing the night of the alleged attack and a second battling claims by the priest's lawyer that he made up the story because he was jealous of the priest or desperate for money.
The accuser, a former altar boy who served in the Marines, has been named in court papers and at trial but The Inquirer does not publish the names of alleged victims of sex crimes without their permission.
His mother acknowledged for jurors she was the one who welcomed Brennan into the family two decades ago.
He was the "cool young priest" on the staff at St. Andrew's Church in Newtown, she said. He rode a motorcycle, sang beautifully, and invested the liturgy with life. At the time, she was the mother of three young children, struggling to care for them and her dying mother.
"I latched on to my faith to get me through," she said during a 2008 internal church proceeding, testimony that was read Wednesday to jurors. "And all things being equal, all things being said about Father Brennan, he is a gifted priest."
The woman said she had no reason to be concerned when Brennan offered to take her son that summer night in 1996. Both had spent countless hours together. Brennan had taken her boys golfing and to Gettysburg, and was a regular at their home.
When the teen returned shaken, the woman said she urged him to open up, to talk about it with her or even the parish pastor. He wouldn't, she said.
"Absolutely not," he told her, she said. "I'm not that kid."
The woman said her friendship with the priest weakened after the incident, but she didn't end it.
"And why didn't you?" Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho asked.
"I can't answer that question - and I'll never forgive myself for that," the woman replied.
She told jurors she did not learn what happened to her son until he tried to kill himself years later. "He was in the emergency room and that's when the details emerged and everything started to come together," the woman said.
She described the revelation as "like a lightning bolt between the eyes."
As he did with her son, the priest's lawyer, William J. Brennan, tried to explore possible motives or explanations for the allegation. Brennan, who is not related to the priest, asked the woman about her son's criminal record and his drug addictions. He asked her about an Ohio convention she attended with the priest and the call she made to him in 2005, asking if his parish might have some work for her husband's fledgling contracting business. Brennan also tried to question her about a bankruptcy petition she and her husband filed and what he called "marital issues," but prosecutors objected and Judge M. Teresa Sarmina cut those questions short.
As he did with her son, the lawyer tried to highlight what he suggested were inconsistencies in the woman's testimony. He noted that during the priest's 2008 canonical trial, she said she "never learned what happened" between the teen and Brennan.
She glared at the lawyer and, with a voice taut with controlled anger, said, "I will never know what really happened, Mr. Brennan."
Jurors also heard Wednesday from a former youth-league baseball coach in Bucks County who said he once saw Brennan massaging the boy's back during a gathering at the family's house in about 1990.
The coach, Robert T. Kane, testified that the boy was sweaty and wearing no shirt at his kitchen table when Brennan approached from behind and began massaging his bare shoulders.
The image stuck in his head, Kane said. "It was kind of like looking at a black-and-white picture and seeing someone wearing a yellow hat," he testified. "It just seemed odd to me."
The priest's lawyer questioned why Kane never told the boy's parents or anyone else at the time.
"What are we doing here?" William Brennan said, adding: "Let's hear it! It's possible child abuse but it's not enough to get you to talk to his parents?"
Kane said he was reluctant to raise the issue because he knew that the boy's mother was "very close to Father Brennan. She was always talking about him and I was afraid she'd get mad at me."
Kane, however, insisted that the priest's actions seemed odd: "I thought it was unusual for a priest to be massaging a boy's back. I could see a mother or father doing that but not a priest."
Contact staff writer John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JPMartinInky on Twitter.
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