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  Archdiocese's Review Board Identifies Members

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger
Albuquerque Tribune [Albuquerque NM]
October 11, 2005

The board members who recommended further sanctions for former Albuquerque priest Ronald Bruckner after finding allegations he sexually abused boys credible have taken an unprecedented step:

They've attached their names to their recommendation.

It's the first time the Archdiocese of Santa Fe's Permanent Review Board has made the identities of its membership known since its inception in 1993.

Don Kawal, chairman of the board and a member for about eight years, said it was a logical step.


PERMANENT REVIEW BOARD MEMBERS

Don Kawal, chairman
Aileen Garriott
The Rev. Frank Prieto
Mark Klecan
Sarah Brennan
Manuel Archuleta
The Rev. Francis Eggert
Brian McDonald

A ninth member is on extended vacation and could not be contacted for permission to release her name.

"I thought it was important at this particular point in time for me," said Kawal, president of Klinger Constructors. "I was already headed that way."

The nine-member board last month unanimously recommended to Archbishop Michael Sheehan that he place Bruckner on restricted status after it concluded its investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse the archdiocese received in March.

Kawal said the board also considered earlier allegations against Bruckner, who had been the pastor of Our Lady of the Annunciation Church in Albuquerque from 1987 until March, when he was placed on paid leave after the latest allegation surfaced.

Bruckner, 72, retired two months later after 40 years in the priesthood but retained his priestly capacities and was allowed to wear a collar. Under restricted status, he loses both.

"When we looked at the allegations, we found credible allegations that were supportive of our recommendations," Kawal said.

Bruckner's restricted status became effective Sept. 16. He will still receive his pension.

Bruckner continues to deny the allegations, said his attorney, Terry Guebert.

"Father Bruckner continues to cooperate fully with the investigation and requests that any of his former parishioners who have information about his conduct and character as a priest contact the archdiocese to provide relevant information," Guebert said.

The latest accuser said the incident occurred in the 1970s when Bruckner was pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Los Alamos.

The accuser, now in his 40s and living out of state, said he was a teen sent to Bruckner by his parents to deal with his being raped. Bruckner, the accuser said, made him disrobe in front of a mirror to re-enact the rape and then engaged him in sexual contact.

The accuser said he came forward in March after his wife saw a Web site run by the New Mexico chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, that detailed other sexual allegations against Bruckner.

The accuser and his attorney appeared before the review board in June, Kawal said. It was at that meeting that the attorney made a request to have each board member give their name, Kawal said.

"It was the first time we had ever been asked," Kawal said.

In September, he said Sheehan also requested that the board consider releasing its names publicly.

Kawal said he could not recall the reasoning Sheehan gave for his request.

"I don't remember what it was, but I know we were already thinking that way when he asked," Kawal said. "We reached the conclusion on our own."

Sheehan could not be reached for comment.

Advocacy groups for victims of priest sexual abuse, members of the media and concerned citizens have for years argued that the board identities should be made public.

In April, The Tribune made a formal request to obtain the names but was denied.

"Board members have expressed that anonymity is more conducive to their fulfilling their duties and obligations as consultors and advisers to the archbishop," Sister Nancy Kazik, then vice chancellor and case manager for the archdiocese, responded in a letter dated April 22.

Kazik had been criticized by at least two former board members, including Metro Court Judge Anna Martinez, of manipulating the information the board received in the Bruckner case and slanting the case presentation in his favor.

Kazik denied the allegations. She retired in June after overseeing the review board for 11 years.

Kawal said the decision to go public had nothing to do with Kazik no longer overseeing the board. He also said he had been surprised at Martinez's allegations against her.

Bruckner was the subject of two previous review board investigations - one in 1995, the other in 2004.

Those investigations centered on six letters sent to the archdiocese in 1995 involving five men who said they were physically and sexually abused by Bruckner when they were attending Our Lady of the Assumption Middle School in Albuquerque in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The letters allege the priest made the boys sleep in his bed with him so they could "bond," wrestled with them in underwear and watched R-rated movies such as "The Blue Lagoon" during sleepovers at the church rectory.

The men also say he made them look at themselves naked in the mirror for therapy, fondled them or spoke about their genitals.

Sheehan said at the time that the board found no credible evidence of sexual misconduct against the priest, although he called the priest's actions "questionable but not sexual abuse."

Sheehan created the board in 1993 shortly after he took over an archdiocese reeling from priest settlements totaling about $50 million.

The original board included four members: a non-Catholic church leader, a commissioner on domestic violence, a community activist and a psychologist. Later, the board was expanded to nine members serving five-year terms, which the archbishop could extend for another five years.

Members have included doctors, judges, social workers and other priests. One of the most notorious members was Robert Malloy, a former Catholic priest who was removed from his priestly duties after pleading guilty to sexual misconduct with five teenage boys in 1998.

The current board includes two priests, an attorney, a social worker, a psychologist and a physician.

The board reviews allegations of sexual misconduct against priests, relying on the archdiocese case manager to provide the evidence.

The board determines the credibility of the allegations and makes its recommendations to the archbishop, who can abide by or reject its advice.

Sheehan has always followed the advice of the board.

During Sheehan's tenure, more than 20 members of the clergy have been restricted or removed from the ministry.

 
 

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