Grand Jury: Former Priest Was " Brutal" Child Abuser

By John Hopkins
The Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, VA]
September 25, 2005

Chesapeake — A former Roman Catholic priest who now lives in Chesapeake has been accused of being one of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's "most brutal abusers" of children, according to a grand jury report released last week.

Former Philadelphia-area priest James J. Brzyski, 54, has started a new life in South Norfolk. He was defrocked earlier this year.

In the late 1970s and early '80s, Brzyski abused victims in two parishes of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, according to the grand jury report. The jury, convened in 2002 to investigate sex abuse in the archdiocese , called Brzyski a "serial mol-ester and child rapist. "

He is one of 63 Philadelphia-area priests named in the report, which also accuses the archdiocese's administrators of knowing about the abuse but failing to stop it or report it to law enforcement authorities.

The grand jury said Catholic Church officials first went public with Brzyski's misconduct this year, far too late for consideration of criminal prosecution because of statutes of limitations. The same is true with the other priests named in the report, the jury said.

"We are left, then, with what we consider a travesty of justice: a multitude of crimes for which no one can be held criminally accountable," the jury stated.

Brzyski was a priest in the Philadelphia area from June 1977, shortly after he was ordained, until August 1984. Today, he lives in a mixed-income Chesapeake community. Neighbors said Friday they were shocked to learn of his past. They described Brzyski as a man who keeps to himself at his home in the 1300 block of Chesapeake Ave.

Brzyski recently declined to be interviewed by The Virginian-Pilot about the sex abuse allegations. He summoned Chesapeake police last month and said he was being harassed when questioned by a reporter near the courthouse.

In June, the Commission on the Protection of Children and Clerical Conduct, an office set up by the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 2002 to review allegations of clergy sexual abuse, released a statement that Brzyski was dismissed from the clergy because of "misconduct involving minors."

He had served in the parishes of St. John the Evangelist in Morrisville, Pa., and St. Cecilia in Philadelphia. His accusers, testifying before the grand jury, said Brzyski selected them as altar boys and began his "unrelenting abuse," including fondling, oral sex and anal rape. In 1984, Brzyski admitted several acts of sexual misconduct, and church officials looked the other way, the grand jury said.

"Had they cared, Archdiocesan managers could have acted to stop Fr. Brzyski from ruining the lives of innumerable children, " the report states .

The jury's report cites 17 cases of abuse involving Brzyski and includes detailed testimony from three boys.

One , referred to as Billy, testified that the priest began molesting him in the fifth grade in the sacristy as the 11-year-old altar boy dressed for Mass. Billy said the priest, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound man, had cornered him in a secluded corner of the dressing room.

Billy, now an adult, said the priest abused him even while other altar boys were dressing in the same room. Brzyski was feared among the alt ar boys for his sexual behavior, Billy said.

Another priest walked into the sacristy on one occasion and saw Brzyski fondling Billy but did nothing to help him , Billy testified.

Billy told the grand jury he was devastated.

"He said he felt like he lost God and his belief in Heaven, and that was the scariest thing you want to go through being a kid, " the grand jury report states.

Billy testified that when he tried to put an end to the abuse, Brzyski looked at him and laughed, telling him, "Your parents know what goes on. We have a deal. "

The abuse continued from the fifth grade to the eighth grade, when Brzyski suddenly disappeared, Billy said. For nearly 20 years, Billy said he believed the lie that his parents knew of the abuse.

The Philadelphia chapter of Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests lists Brzyski as one of numerous priests who have been publicly accused of sexual abuse in that city.

The grand jury stated that when Brzyski was confronted about the allegations of abuse in Philadelphia, he offered to resign, but the archdiocese officials persuaded him to stay. They were concerned only with lawsuits and liability issues, the report states .

Brzyski was persuaded to seek therapy at a church-run facility, St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md., but while there, he called his victims, inviting them to visit, the report states.

Archdiocese officials tried to persuade Brzyski to remain in therapy and the ministry, but he decided not to continue either, according to the report .

"Archdiocesan managers apparently never considered contacting law enforcement authorities," the report states.

Brzyski left the Philadelphia area and eventually settled in South Norfolk, where signs posted on his front and back porch warn: "No Trespassing."

The grand jury report also accuses Brzyski of molesting a boy in Chesapeake in May 2002 but does not include specific information. There is no indication from Chesapeake court records that Brzyski has been charged with any crime.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.