Troy Pastor Resigns
St. Patrick's Brunner Among 10 Labeled Abusive
By Tom Beyerlein and Ben Sutherly
Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
September 18, 2003
TROY - The Rev. Thomas Brunner resigned Tuesday night as pastor of St. Patrick Catholic Church in anticipation of being forced out of the priesthood because he was found to have sexually abused high school girls while working in Cincinnati in the late 1970s and mid-1980s.
Brunner, 55, is the last of five abusive priests who were restored to the ministry by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to be publicly named, archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said Wednesday.
He is one of 10 abusive diocesan priests whose cases are to be considered this fall by a child protection review board. Under the U.S. bishops' new zero-tolerance policy, the board could recommend to Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk that the priests be defrocked.
The zero-tolerance policy requires that priests with even one substantiated abuse case be permanently removed from the priesthood.
"He chose to resign in anticipation of what was going to happen anyway," Andriacco said, adding that Brunner is likely to be formally placed on paid administrative leave after the review board meeting "as another step toward permanent removal." In the meantime, he will get no assignment and "he's not going to be functioning as a priest."
Pilarczyk plans to address the St. Patrick congregation at Masses at 8:30, 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
Brunner has left the area and is staying with family or friends, Andriacco said. He could not be reached for comment.
"He has left the area for the time being and will eventually establish a home somewhere, not paid for by the archdiocese," Andriacco said.
The Rev. Joseph Binzer, chancellor of the archdiocese, and Andriacco met Wednesday with the St. Patrick Church staff and told them of the reasons for Brunner's resignation.
"They were all very sad, because of course he's their friend," Andriacco said.
The archdiocese has had no reports of abuse by Brunner since before he came to St. Patrick in 1995, he said. St. Patrick has a parochial elementary school.
Ordained in 1974, Brunner left his job as chaplain of the all-girl Mount Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati in 1985 after two female students "made accusations against Brunner which he did not deny," Andriacco said.
Brunner received counseling and was deemed fit to be restored to the ministry, he said. Brunner was assigned to churches in Montgomery and Anderson Twp. after leaving the school.
Brunner was under orders from the archdiocese not to be alone with children and to receive ongoing counseling, Andriacco said. The rules under which he was restored to ministry also required "others on the parish staff knowing of his history," Andriacco said.
In 1989, a young woman told the archdiocese that Brunner had sexually abused her as a high school student in the late 1970s, Andriacco said. Brunner was given a psychological evaluation "which stated that he would be able to function in his role as a pastor," he said.
"Brunner did not leave his (last) parish in Cincinnati for anything to do with abuse," Andriacco said. "It was his choice" to come to St. Patrick in 1995.
St. Patrick, 409 E. Main St., is Troy's biggest Catholic church, with about 1,500 families.
Archdiocese officials likely will ask Brunner and the nine other abusive priests to seek removal from the priesthood. Those who refuse could be involuntarily removed under church law.
Staff members at the St. Patrick campus deferred comment to the Archdiocese on Wednesday afternoon. One staff member said parishioners were still being told of Brunner's resignation.
"I'm still digesting" the news, she said.
"My reaction is shock," said one parishioner sitting in a van on the St. Patrick campus. "I really liked him."
Deb Grant, who heads the parish's Catholic Youth Organization basketball program, said she knows the news of Brunner's resignation will affect everyone differently.
"All I know is that Father Tom is loved by everyone, myself included," Grant said.
Grant said Brunner supported the St. Patrick staff and was an advocate for the basketball program.
"He's a man of faith," Grant said. "That's what he has on his side."
Contact: tbeyerlein@DaytonDailyNews.com, bsutherly@DaytonDailyNews.com.
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