Church Action Indicates Priest Confessed
Sex-Abuse Policy Calls for Stripping of Duties

By Bob Warner
Philadelphia Daily News
March 23, 2002

The Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese's handling of sexual-abuse charges against an Olney priest suggests that the pastor admitted the abuse when confronted by church officials earlier this week.

Craig F. Brugger, pastor of St. Helena's Parish in Olney and the former principal of St. James High School in Chester, was removed from his assignment and sent to a treatment center.

The archdiocese is still not releasing the name of the priest, saying that it intends to provide information to his parishioners before providing any additional information to the news media.

The Inquirer identified the cleric in a report that said his victim had contacted the newspaper.

All that the archdiocese has said publicly about the case came in a two-paragraph news release, issued Thursday afternoon.

It said that "a victim of clergy sexual abuse" had met Wednesday with the archdiocese's secretary of clergy, Monsignor William Lynn, and "reported a credible allegation of abuse" that occurred in 1974.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Lynn met with the accused priest, according to the news release, and immediately afterward, the priest was removed from his assignment and sent to a treatment center for "evaluation."

"This allegation is the only report of abuse against this priest of which the Archdiocese is aware," the news release said.

The victim told the Inquirer that the abuse began in 1974 in the confessional of St. Ann's parish in Phoenixville, and continued for about six months.

The victim, 15 years old at the time, said Father Brugger had given him an afternoon job doing office chores in the church rectory, and began making sexual advances within a week. The abuse continued until the victim's mother began to suspect something and confronted the priest, the victim said.

"He was gone in a week," the victim told the newspaper.

The archdiocese would not provide any details on the allegations against the priest, or his response. But its rapid action to strip him of his assignment suggests that the priest admitted to an improper relationship with the boy.

Since 1993, the archdiocese has had written procedures for dealing with such cases. They call for the priest to be confronted with any charges as soon as possible after church officials receive them.

"If the cleric admits to the allegation being true, he is relieved of his assignment, placed on administrative leave and asked to undergo a psychological evaluation," the written procedures say.

That's exactly what has happened in this case, according to the archdiocesan account.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese is struggling to avoid the scandals that have erupted in Boston, Hartford and other cities as the Catholic Church confronts decades in which similar episodes have been kept quiet.

Last month, the Philadelphia Archdiocese announced that there was "credible evidence" that 35 different priests had abused minors since 1950. But until this week, the church had said that it knew of no credible allegations against active priests.



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