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Church investigates parishioner complaints

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Episcopal Diocese of Alaska is investigating ''clear and credible complaints'' that a clergyman has engaged in sexual exploitation of adult parishioners.

The Rev. Robert Bruschi of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity in Juneau has signed a pastoral directive that prevents him from performing duties related to the priesthood and from attending church services or entering church buildings. He also agreed to a psychological assessment.

He will retain his full salary. The Juneau Empire was unsuccessful in contacting him for comment.

Mark MacDonald, Episcopal bishop for the state, confirmed the investigation.

''By 'credible' we're not saying it's true, but it has enough substance to it'' to warrant an investigation, MacDonald said.

He said complaints were filed this month by several parishioners. The complaints, brought to MacDonald's attention initially through phone calls and later in a letter, contend Bruschi misused his power and authority as a priest and spiritual director by attempting to develop sexual relationships with parishioners.

Sexual exploitation is defined by the diocese as ''the development of or the attempt to develop a sexual relationship between clergy person ... and a person with whom he has a pastoral relationship.''

None of the incidents reported involves a minor, MacDonald said. He would not expand on the specific nature of the misconduct.

''The church has to be a place where people have trust, and so we're trying to make sure that it's a safe place by following these procedures and responding carefully to people's concerns,'' MacDonald said.

MacDonald met with Bruschi on Feb. 9 to present the charges and discuss the church's course of action.

Bruschi's family, including his wife, Caroline, also an Episcopal priest, and two children, will be allowed to continue to live in the church rectory, MacDonald said. They will not be active members of the church community for the time being, though, Caroline Bruschi wrote in a statement sent to parishioners Feb. 12.

Church members were informed of the allegations at a congregational meeting Feb. 9.

Bruschi has served as rector of the Holy Trinity since 2000. The church has between 100 and 150 active members, MacDonald said.

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