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  Priest 'Vehemently Denies' Sex Abuse Allegations

By Paul Logan
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
March 22, 2005

An Albuquerque priest says he is cooperating with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe investigation and "vehemently denies" sex abuse allegations, his lawyer said Monday.

The Roman Catholic archdiocese said in a statement that it is investigating allegations against the Rev. Ronald Bruckner, pastor of Our Lady of Annunciation Church.

Recent allegations of sexual misconduct against the priest claim he inappropriately touched a teenage boy in the 1970s.

The accusations by a man in his 40s earlier this month have prompted the archdiocese to place Bruckner on paid administrative leave "until the situation is resolved," according to the archdiocese.

A spokeswoman said Monday there will be no comment until an investigation by the Archdiocese Review Board is completed.

No charges have been filed.

Bruckner is the longtime pastor of the Albuquerque parish and elementary school.

The archdiocese said Bruckner cannot conduct any public ministry while the investigation is in progress.

Bruckner's attorney said in a letter to local news media Monday that the priest supports the archdiocese sexual abuse policy and "is cooperating fully with the investigation. He vehemently denies these allegations."

Donald Bruckner, the priest's attorney and nephew, also demanded that Bruckner's name not be used again in connection with these "false and defamatory accusations."

At Annunciation's weekend Masses, parishioners were told the archdiocese was conducting an investigation.

The alleged victim made the allegations in a one-page letter to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, earlier this year.

The St. Louis-based national support group sent David Clohessy, its executive director, to Albuquerque. He asked Archbishop Michael Sheehan to suspend the priest and "to err on the side of children's safety."

Clohessy made the letter public on March 2, claiming Bruckner abused the teen in 1976 when the priest was serving in Los Alamos. The letter claims Bruckner's sexual misconduct occurred after the teen's parents had sought counseling from Bruckner for their son, who had been raped at knifepoint by a man.

The abuse allegedly occurred when the priest and teen were alone in the priest's apartment.

"His actions destroyed me," the letter writer said.

Sheehan could not be reached for comment Monday regarding the recent action taken against Bruckner.

The man, whose name has not been disclosed, said he sent the letter after learning on the SNAP Web site that six other men had written letters complaining about Bruckner to the archdiocese in 1995.

The 1995 letters were sent during the archdiocese sexual abuse scandal when more than 20 priests were dismissed.

Those letters noted abusive incidents that allegedly occurred when the men were seventh- and eighth-grade boys in an Albuquerque Catholic school. When the boys were at sleepovers at the priest house, they alleged that Bruckner wrestled with them while in his underwear.

Last summer, when the letters surfaced, Sheehan wrote to all his priests, saying the accusers "alleged actions by (Bruckner) which in the light of the church's subsequent experience are questionable but not sexual abuse."

Sheehan also told the Journal that "20 or 30 years ago, rough-housing and wrestling wasn't a bad thing," adding that rules now exist against touching and sleepovers.

In the mid-1990s, the board ruled there "was not credible evidence of sexual abuse," according to Sheehan, and "no reason to remove (Bruckner) from ministry."

 
 

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