West Hempstead resident Peter Paul Brennan, the archbishop of the Old Catholic Confederation and an advocate for a married priesthood, ecumenism and social justice for more than 40 years, died on Aug. 1, of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 75.
Brennan was ordained as a married priest in 1972 under the Old Roman Catholic Church, which had split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1870. He was later consecrated a bishop in 1978, under the African Orthodox Church. He also served as the prime-bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas, an independent Catholic church.
In 2006, he was consecrated, along with three other men, as bishop sub conditione by the Most Rev. Emmanuel Milingo, who was then Roman Archbishop Emeritus of Lusaka, Zambia. Milingo, an advocate for the elimination of celibacy rules for Roman Catholic priests, was later excommunicated from the Church along with all four men.
Brennan was also known as an advocate for his decades of work in ecumenism and Christian unity. He was president and prelate of the international Catholic Prelature of Ss. Peter and Paul, a movement in support of married priests founded by Milingo. At his death, Brennan was president of Married Priests Now!, an advocacy group calling to relax the rules of marriage in the Roman Catholic priesthood. Additionally, Brennan supported the ordination of women.
“These things have now become very acceptable by society,” said the Most Rev. Craig J.N. de Paulo, primate of the Old Catholic Confederation, and its archbishop of the United States. “He was administering these to people way before it became acceptable.”
In an open letter to Pope Francis on the website marriedpriests.org, Brennan wrote, “… Remember, in apostolic times priests were married. Jesus chose married men as his apostles. St. Peter was a married priest. In the first three centuries many bishops and popes were married. So it is an apostolic charism [charisma] to have a married priesthood along with the freely chosen celibate priesthood.”
In his secular life, Brennan spent over three decades as an educator and administrator in the New York City public school system, and was a chair of the English department at West Hempstead High School for several years, his daughter, Shawna Irish, said.
He held several degrees, including an A.B. in philosophy from St. Pius X Seminary, an M.A. in theology from St. John’s University and an M.A. in education from Manhattan College. He also held several honorary degrees, including a doctor divinitatis from the Collegium Augustinianum Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology.
Brennan was married to his late wife, Marie Kirby, for 40 years, and was the father of three adult children and five grandchildren.