From Philly to Dallas, ex-priest a 'brutal abuser' without remorse

REX C. CURRY / FOR THE DAILY NEWS
REX C. CURRY / FOR THE DAILY NEWS
Posted: January 30, 2014

WHEN BILL Johnson moved into a Dallas apartment complex in October 2012, a neighbor named James rolled out the welcome wagon. Sort of.

"Oh, great, another old queen moving in," James said as Johnson and his friends unloaded his belongings at Crescent View Apartments in the Texas city's Oak Lawn section.

Johnson, 54, an unemployed financial adviser, figured that James was just being nice, one gay man to another in the "gayborhood."

"I think he was trying to be friendly and joking," Johnson said. "He doesn't have a muffler on his mouth, as my mama used to say."

Johnson had no way to know it at the time, but the neighbor was James Brzyski, a defrocked priest described in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office's 2005 grand-jury report as one of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's "most brutal abusers."

The 6-foot-5 Brzyski allegedly preyed on at least 17 altar boys in the 1970s and '80s, subjecting them to "unrelenting abuse, including fondling, oral sex and rape," according to the report.

Brzyski, 62, has managed to leave all that behind. In Dallas, he reinvented himself as a jovial former Xerox employee who'd lost millions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Johnson initially had no reason to doubt that backstory. You don't automatically suspect that your new neighbor is a child rapist.

"He said before he retired that he worked for Xerox for 30 years," Johnson said.

Brzyski is able to move from one community to another in relative anonymity - at least until his behavior gives him away - because the Archdiocese won't disclose his whereabouts, or the whereabouts of 23 other Philadelphia priests who have been defrocked for abusing minors.

So Johnson and Brzyski became friends last spring. They were part of a small group at Crescent View that would relax at the pool, or get together for dinner or wine. None of them knew at first that they'd let a "monster" into their circle, Johnson said.

"He puts on a great front, and he's a great guy to hang around with," Johnson said. "Until you find out about him."

In the pool, on the Web

Over the summer, Brzyski's neighbors realized that something was wrong.

They saw him playing with young boys in the pool. He bragged about going online to find males who appeared to be underage and said he liked "fat boys," Johnson said. A Facebook page that Brzyski has used - with a different name and corresponding email address - includes a photo of a shirtless overweight boy with an obscene caption.

Brzyski, neighbors say, was acting like a pedophile - the same man who the Archdiocese acknowledges abused boys at St. John the Evangelist School in Bucks County and St. Cecilia School in Philadelphia's Fox Chase section decades ago.

But in Dallas, he was just a retired Xerox worker.

"There are people in the complex that always have their nieces and nephews over, and he would get in the pool and pick the boys up and throw them and play with them," Johnson said. "But he wouldn't pay any attention to the girls."

Maggie Caster, a friend of Johnson's who lives at Crescent View, also found Brzyski's behavior suspicious. She said he had given one child candy and money.

"He was the only one that was really interacting with them in the pool, which we found unusual," Caster recalled. "There was a group of us adults, and just the kids playing among themselves, and he was over with the kids."

Johnson said that Brzyski had been reaching out to boys he met online and that some of the pictures he'd received were of males who appeared to be underage. Caster also saw some of the photos and said the males seemed to be minors.

After Brzyski sent a box of candy to one of them, Johnson said, the kid "texted him telling him not to send things to his house because his parents open his mail."

"I said, 'James, that tells you right there he's not 18,' " Johnson said.

Even at dinner, Caster said, Brzyski would steer conversations toward young males and it quickly would become an "inappropriate situation."

"We would be talking about something random and he would take his computer or phone out and show us pictures of these boys," Caster said. "He just seemed like he was a pedophile. His characteristics were very much that way."

Attempts by the Daily News to reach Brzyski were unsuccessful. He did not respond to an email or a voice mail left on his last known phone number.

'We were horrified'

Alarmed by his behavior, Brzyski's neighbors went online a few months ago and found news stories about his past, including a 2008 Daily News article about Brzyski and other pedophile ex-priests cut loose by the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Prior to that, no one at Crescent View had known the real James Brzyski. Not even the apartment manager.

"We were horrified by the stories we read about him. When I asked him about it, his reply was that he was abused by priests in the seminary so he thought that was OK," Johnson said. "I said, 'James, that's not saying you're sorry. That's making excuses for horrendous behavior.' "

They spread the word to their friends, including those whose nephews Brzyski had targeted in the pool over the summer. Brzyski tried to do "damage control," but ultimately moved out last month, Johnson said.

"I was a victim of child abuse, and I don't play that game or put up with people that have done it, especially with people that have no remorse," Johnson said. "He said, 'Yeah, that went on a long time ago,' and 'I can't believe you looked me up on Google,' and 'Real friends don't do that.'

"But real friends don't go around raping people," Johnson said. "He never said sorry or felt guilty about it. That, to me, is despicable."

Public records show that Brzyski, the son of a Philadelphia police officer, has traveled coast to coast since leaving the Archdiocese, with addresses including Virginia Beach, Va., and West Hollywood, Calif.

He surfaced on a dating website as "JUSTINBLUE," asking potential dates whether they would "mind putting on some weight" and "enjoy the company of more mature men." He's recently used an email address under the name "Joshua," according to Johnson.

"He's considered a sex offender. He should register," said Adriana Ramirez, Crescent View Apartments manager.

But Brzyski, who attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and was ordained in 1977, doesn't have to register as a Megan's Law sex offender because the Archdiocese kept his case under wraps in the 1980s, when allegations that he was sexually abusing children were first reported to church leaders, according to the city's 2005 grand-jury report.

In an Oct. 31, 1984, letter to then-Cardinal John Krol, the Rev. John W. Graf, an assistant chancellor, provided an update on "the Father Brzyski situation." Graf told Krol that he had advised a psychological counselor at Bishop Egan High School not to treat one of Brzyski's alleged abuse victims "because of the sensitivity of the situation" and in order to retain "confidentiality."

Archdiocese officials did not notify police, and Brzyski continued to abuse children, according to the grand-jury report. He left active ministry in 1985, but it wasn't until March 2005 that the Archdiocese formally kicked him out of the priesthood - laicized him, in church terminology - after concluding that he had sexually abused minors. By then, it was too late to file criminal charges, because of the statute of limitations.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Brzyski is among a diaspora of unregistered sex offenders unleashed by the Roman Catholic Church since 2002. Few safeguards prevent the former priests from abusing again.

"The reason these guys are walking free is because church officials shielded them. Were it not for the actions of the church hierarchy, many of these guys would be in jail," Clohessy said. "I think that increases the moral and civic duty of bishops to say more than, 'Well, he's not in the diocese anymore.' "

Philadelphia Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin said the Archdiocese maintains current addresses for sex-offender priests who receive a pension and tries to keep track of those who, like Brzyski, are not receiving a pension.

"Like any other organization, we do not release that type of personal information publicly," Gavin said.

Gavin said the Archdiocese tries to protect communities from defrocked priests who abused minors.

"Although a laicized priest is no longer serving the Archdiocese or under its supervision, steps are taken to notify local law enforcement when a priest who has been laicized due to a substantiated allegation of abuse of a minor changes residency," Gavin said.

That information, however, is not typically distributed to neighbors. For Brzyski, the last place of residence that the Archdiocese has on file is in Virginia in 2007, Gavin said. Public records show that he later had addresses in Wisconsin and California before moving to Dallas. On the Archdiocese website, Brzyski's residence is listed only as "private."

"The Archdiocese has worked vigorously over the past three years to reform the way it protects the people it serves, including new policies and procedures, new standards of ministerial behavior, new Archdiocesan review board members and mandated reporter training for tens of thousands of clergy, staff and volunteers," Gavin said. "All of the steps taken will continue to be announced publicly. Additionally, they exceed what is currently required by law in many instances."

Gavin said Brzyski is too young to receive a pension from the Archdiocese, but would be paid if he becomes eligible.

"As with any other former employee, should he be eligible and apply for a pension in the future, we would proceed as required by the law," Gavin said.

'He's out of control'

Brzyski's choice of Dallas is ironic, because the man who blew the whistle on him in the 1980s lives only a half-hour away. The Rev. James Gigliotti, pastor of St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, Texas, said he was unaware that Brzyski was living nearby and was disturbed to hear neighbors' reports about his behavior around kids.

In 2002, Brzyski was charged in Virginia with attempted sexual battery involving a 17-year-old boy, but the charges later were withdrawn, the Inquirer reported in 2005. He previously had run a children's-birthday-party business from his East Falls home, the paper reported.

"These people have chutzpah, I'll tell you. They have no sense of decency. There are no boundaries," Gigliotti said of ex-priests like Brzyski. "That man has hurt so many kids. He's out of control."

Gigliotti, 66, said he told Graf, the assistant chancellor, about Brzyski's abuse in the early 1980s.

"I was told to keep my mouth shut and that it's being taken care of," Gigliotti said.

Gigliotti said he understands that civil and canon law may limit what information Philadelphia Archdiocese officials believe they can release about Brzyski and other defrocked priests, but he said that doesn't absolve them of responsibility.

"They shoot themselves in the foot. There is an opportunity to be transparent here," he said. "It's a moral imperative. You have to protect the public, too, just like you have to protect the flock."

Brzyski's former neighbors in Dallas want to warn his new neighbors and their children, but they don't know who they are.

"We don't know where he is now," said Caster, his former neighbor at Crescent View.


On Twitter: @wbender99

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