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  Support Mixed on Priest Suspension
Archbishop Stripped Cleric of Public Church Duties Amid Accusations of Molestation

By Paul Logan
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
October 11, 2005

Telephone calls to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe offices Monday were split about 50-50 regarding the archbishop's restriction of the Rev. Ronald Bruckner's priestly duties.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan took action against Bruckner, a popular Archdiocese of Santa Fe cleric for more than 40 years, because of "credible allegations" of sexually abusing a minor, Sheehan said Sunday.

The Archdiocesan Permanent Review Board unanimously recommended in September that Bruckner no longer publicly function as a priest.

Terry Guebert, Bruckner's attorney, said in a letter to the Journal on Monday that "Father Bruckner continues to deny these allegations.

"We are unaware of any finding by the permanent review board that the allegations were credible," Guebert added.

In an interview Monday, however, review board chairman Don Kawal said the information the board considered "was credible and led to our recommendation."

Kawal said he could reassure Roman Catholics that the ninemember board did a thorough job with highly responsible people.

"We have people who are comfortable bringing up issues and counterpoints," he said. "From that I'm very confident that we have done a thorough job."

Bruckner, retired and in his early 70s, is the former longtime pastor of Our Lady of The Annunciation Church.

Kawal said the board reviewed an "extensive stack of letters" alleging that Bruckner sexually abused young boys many years ago.

Some letters from men dating from 1995 noted abusive incidents that allegedly occurred when they were seventh- and eighth-grade boys in an Albuquerque Catholic school. Their allegations said that as boys, when there were at sleepovers at the priest house, Bruckner wrestled with them while in his underwear.

In the mid-1990s, the board ruled there was not credible evidence to remove Bruckner.

The board had access to Bruckner's entire history, from the first allegations in the early to mid-1990s, said Wayne Pribble, victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese.

Pribble, who fielded the calls from Catholics on Monday, said the archdiocese is trying to clean up past problems.

"I just think our whole policy these days of protection of children and youth is very strenuous," said Pribble, who took over the job from Sister Nancy Kazik, who retired.

"It's going to take some time. I don't think we've heard the end of it. I think other people are going to come forward."

His job includes presenting information to the board. It hears and evaluates all allegations of misconduct.

Besides Kawal, who is from the business community, the boards consists of two priests, a social worker, psychologist, attorney, physician, economist and counselor, all selected by the archbishop.

Kawal called the board a diverse group with appropriate backgrounds.

"It took me time to sort through everything," he said of the Bruckner case. "For me it meant studying this again and again and again, going back to things I looked at previously.

"It's a tough job."

 
 

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