Archbishop Ends Retired Priest's Duties
Review Board Found Sexual Abuse Allegations Credible
By Paul Logan
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
October 10, 2005
Parishioners at a Roman Catholic church in Albuquerque were shocked Sunday to learn that a former pastor can no longer perform priestly duties because of "credible" allegations of sexually abusing a minor. Archbishop Michael Sheehan has taken action against retired Rev. Ronald Bruckner, placing him "on restricted status." Sheehan told the Journal on Sunday that he made his decision after a unanimous recommendation from the Archdiocesan Permanent Review Board last month. The archbishop said the board findings concluded "there were credible allegations." The nine-person board, including two priests, assists the archbishop in his determination of clergy suitability for ministry. Bruckner was a longtime pastor at Our Lady of The Annunciation Church. He has been on administrative leave from the Northeast Heights parish since March because of sexual misconduct claims. The archdiocese review board has shared its findings with the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office. District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Sunday that the statute of limitations has run out on the Bruckner case. The abuse allegedly took
place in the 1970s.
"I'm glad to hear that they made the decision they did," she said of restricting Bruckner. "I think it's the right one."
After Mass at Assumption on Sunday, Steve Misgen, a member for 12 years, said the news "terribly shocks me.
"It's a horrible shame that these things occur in our religion," said Misgen, referring to pedophile priests.
"I think the archbishop is taking appropriate action."
Besides no longer participating in public ministry, Bruckner is not allowed to wear a Roman collar. He will still receive his pension, according to Sheehan.
Bruckner is in his early 70s.
A man in his 40s claimed in March that Bruckner inappropriately touched him. He said the incident occurred when he was a teenager alone in the priest's apartment.
The man, whose name was not disclosed, wrote that he learned on the Internet of six other men who had sent accusations about Bruckner to the archdiocese in 1995. Then, the review board ruled there was no credible evidence of abuse regarding Bruckner.
He served the archdiocese for more than 40 years.
The archdiocese was rocked by a sexual abuse scandal in the 1990s when more than 20 priests were dismissed and then-Archbishop Robert Sanchez lost his job.
Bruckner, who denies these allegations, is completing the review process, Terry Guebert wrote in a statement Sunday to the Albuquerque Journal. His firm represents the priest.
"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," the statement said.
Sheehan said archdiocese attorneys had interviewed Bruckner and the claimant, who lives in another state. The archbishop said he was "sad for the victim and we're sad for Father Bruckner."
When asked what he wanted to say to those who trusted the priest for years, the archbishop said Bruckner has done "many wonderful things" during his career.
"We're grateful for that ministry and saddened by this allegation," Sheehan said. "We keep him in prayer and also the man alleging the misconduct."
He said the last half year was "very difficult" for Bruckner, who asked the archbishop for counseling help. Sheehan said he connected Bruckner with a counseling service in Washington, D.C., where the priest is receiving care.
The archdiocesan newspaper, People of God, published in its October edition one paragraph about Bruckner on page 6. It said Sheehan's decision was effective Sept. 16. The paper was passed out at weekend Masses.
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