Advocacy Group Says Priest Violating Terms of His Suspension

By John Nolan
Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 17, 2005

A Roman Catholic priest suspended by the church for sexually abusing children violated terms of his suspension by living near children and presenting himself as a priest at a funeral, an advocacy group for abuse victims says.

The Rev. Thomas Brunner is on paid suspension from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He is living with a woman and her adopted son in the Dayton suburb of Riverside, said Christy Miller, co-leader for the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Brunner is an abuser who should not have access to children, Miller said in a telephone interview Thursday. She faxed a letter of complaint to the Cincinnati archdiocese office on Wednesday.

"It seems that Tom Brunner is blatantly disregarding your authority and is mocking the directives of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati," Miller wrote to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk. "Brunner, as you know, is still a priest employed by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, therefore still under your supervision."

Miller also sent the archdiocese a copy of a published obituary that reported Brunner had presided at a Dec. 3 funeral in Hamilton.

The archdiocese received the letter and is investigating, church spokesman Dan Andriacco said.

"If it is true, it is very serious," Andriacco said.

Brunner could not be reached for comment Thursday. He has an unpublished telephone number.

The archdiocese announced in September 2003 that it had placed Brunner and two fellow priests on the suspended status, formally called paid administrative leave. The archdiocese said it had substantiated allegations that Brunner and the other priests had sexually abused children.

The archbishop said then that the suspension was a step toward permanently removing Brunner and the others from ministry, as U.S. church law requires for any priest who has sexually abused a minor.

The suspended priests are forbidden to present themselves as clergy or celebrate the sacraments.

SNAP officials have complained before that the Cincinnati archdiocese moves too slowly in removing abusive priests from the ministry and fails to monitor their activities. Church officials say they are doing as much as they can to safeguard the rights of victims and the due process afforded priests before they are defrocked.

The archdiocese has 14 priests on administrative leave and is unable to regularly monitor them, Andriacco said Thursday.

Brunner resigned in 2003 as pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Troy, about 65 miles north of Cincinnati. He was accused of sexually abusing high school girls at a Catholic school, Mount Notre Dame High, in suburban Cincinnati in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The Cincinnati archdiocese covers 19 southwest Ohio counties and serves about 515,000 Catholics.

The archdiocese pleaded no contest in 2003 to charges of failing to tell authorities about sex abuse allegations against priests. That plea ended the Hamilton County prosecutor's investigation of allegations that priests had sexually abused children and the crimes weren't reported.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.