Md. priest among 2 robbed at N.Y. cathedral St. Mary's Seminary cleric was visiting St. Patrick's

December 27, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK -- Two priests returning from Christmas dinner were robbed at gunpoint in the parish house of St. Patrick's Cathedral on Wednesday night, police said yesterday.

The Rev. Brian Brennan of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Rev. David D. Thayer, who was visiting from St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, were returning to the parish house, on 51st Street between Fifth and Madison avenues, shortly before midnight when two men followed them into the foyer, threatened them with a handgun and robbed them of $175, said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

Neither priest was wearing clerical garb, said Detective Mark Patterson, a police spokesman, and the robbers may not have realized that the men were priests.

But the news that two priests were robbed on Christmas at the seat of the archdiocese angered Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who discussed the crime with Cardinal John J. O'Connor yesterday.

"There can't be anything worse than somebody that's going to attack members of the clergy right in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral," Giuliani said.

Brennan is one of about six priests who live in the parish house, which is connected to the cathedral by passageways. Thayer, a faculty member at St. Mary's, was staying in a guest room there. The two priests had spent the day sightseeing around New York before having Christmas dinner together.

Giuliani, who said that the priests were unharmed but "a little bit shaken," called the robbery an aberration in a year of declining crime. "Unfortunately, you can't affect everyone," he said. "You can't affect all behavior and you have some sick people out there that engage in these activities."

Zwilling said that Brennan and Thayer left the parish house shortly after speaking to detectives yesterday morning. "Father Thayer is going back to Baltimore and Father Brennan is starting his Christmas vacation," Zwilling said.

In 1988, a deranged man ran naked through the aisles and bludgeoned a 76-year-old usher to death with a heavy brass prayer-book stand before he was fatally shot by police in the central aisle of the nave. Robbers have pilfered money from the cathedral's collection boxes, robbed its gift shop and stolen religious books.

Pub Date: 12/27/96

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