Olney Priest Ousted over Abuse Charge

By David O'Reilly
Philadelphia Inquirer
March 22, 2002

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced yesterday that it dismissed a parish priest Wednesday after a victim said the priest had abused him 28 years before - an allegation the church called "credible."

Although the archdiocese declined to identify the priest, The Inquirer learned that it is the Rev. Craig F. Brugger, pastor of St. Helena's Parish in Olney.

The victim contacted The Inquirer two weeks ago and, in a series of interviews, described what he said was a pattern of abuse that began in 1974, when he was 15, and continued for six months.

Father Brugger could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Rev. Rayford E. Emmons, a priest at the St. Helena's rectory, said last night he had been told that Father Brugger would be away for "a couple of days."

The man who brought the complaint against the priest asked not to be identified. He said the abuse began in the confessional of St. Ann's parish in Phoenixville.

One day, he said, after hearing the boy's confession, Father Brugger asked him whether he wanted a job in the rectory.

He accepted, and "within a week he was making advances," the man said.

Soon, Father Brugger was offering him brandy, the man said, "and in a month" was sexually abusing him. The first time, "I was shaking violently."

He said he was paid $30 a week to do office chores in the rectory between 4 and 8 p.m.

Other people in the rectory appeared to be fully aware of the relationship, the man said.

Once, he said, another parish priest walked into Father Brugger's room when the boy was half undressed, backed out of the room, and "never said a word."

The arrangement ended only when the boy's mother "began to suspect." She confronted Father Brugger, and "he was gone in a week," the man said.

A search of annual Official Catholic Directories showed that Father Brugger was assigned to Our Lady of Charity parish in Brookhaven, Pa., in 1984 and 1985. The 1987 directory showed him assigned to St. James High School in Chester, where he served for years as principal.

His residence was at St. Joseph's parish in Aston from 1987 to 1989, and at St. John Chrysostom parish in Wallingford from 1990 to 1992.

The sex abuse "kind of destroyed me," the man said. On the day his mother confronted Father Brugger, he ran away from home and became a "street kid" for about six months. At 18, he entered novitiate in hopes of becoming a religious brother but quit after several months.


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