IN the final hours of his life Toronto priest Tom Brennan was asked if he held any anger or bitterness ‘‘towards life, and maybe towards some people’’.
The answer was ‘‘a gentle ‘no’,’’ his friend and fellow priest Jim Saunders told mourners at Father Brennan’s funeral yesterday.
‘‘As he was to leave this world, there was no animosity, and with malice towards no-one,’’ Father Saunders said.
But if Father Brennan was asked if he was sorry for his part in protecting a notorious Hunter paedophile priest at St Pius X, Adamstown in the 1970s, the mourners at St Joseph’s Church at Toronto weren’t told.
Father Brennan, 74, died on September 30 of cancer, more than two days after losing consciousness, and only a few weeks after becoming the first Australian Catholic clergy member to be charged with concealing the crimes of another priest, and sexually assaulting a child, aged 8.
Although he was convicted in 2009 of making a false statement to police about being told about the notorious priest, he repeatedly said he had no memory of any reports.
Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright yesterday asked an overflowing church to ‘‘honour the goodness of his life and forgive him for his sins’’.
Father Saunders said Father Brennan’s decline was rapid and unexpected.
‘‘He knew his illness was terminal... [but] it was not expected he would die so soon. But he was ready to meet his maker,’’ he said.
Father Saunders noted ‘‘there had been legal issues in Tom’s life, but a requiem mass is not the forum for that’’. ‘‘Tom will have to stand before the judgment seat of God, and so will you, and so will I,’’ he said. ‘‘He has not been exempt from mistakes and failures, and of course there would be sins, but in that whole context, who of us can cast the first stone?’’
Father Brennan was ordained in 1960, and appointed to several Hunter parishes. He had acted as diocese vicar-general and bishop.
More than 20 priests attended yesterday’s service although a number, including former bishop Michael Malone, sent apologies.
The diocese engaged security officers, but a single former St Pius student maintained a silent protest by standing at the rear of the church with his back to the service. He later stood near the hearse with a sign about the church’s ‘‘shame’’.
‘‘I’m here for those who can’t be,’’ said the former student, referring to the number of former St Pius students and victims of the paedophile priest who had committed suicide, including Belmont man John Pirona who died in July.