Priest Confronted About Massage Ads Steps Down - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Priest Confronted About Massage Ads Steps Down

Episcopal Diocese: Review Board Conducting Investigation

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    There were new developments Wednesday involving an Episcopal priest and his private life online.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania said that, in light of an NBC 10 Investigators report Tuesday night, the priest in question has stepped down, pending further investigation.

    Father Michael Ruk was the priest in charge at St. Paul's in Levittown and All Saints' Church in Fallingston, both of which are in Bucks County. The assisting bishop of the diocese said he hopes a review board will finish its investigation within 30 days.
    The NBC 10 Investigators began looking into allegations about the actions of a local priest after being contacted by a viewer.

    And after months of investigating, investigative reporter Harry Hairston went straight to the priest for answers about his online life.

    "You know, Harry, I wanted you to talk to me first," Ruk said.

    "But why are you hiding?" Hairston asked.

    "Because I want to talk to you privately," Ruk said.

    That's because what Ruk does in private is something he apparently thought would stay very private, but it didn't -- not after a New Jersey man came across an Internet ad, Hairston reported.

    The ad was on the popular Web site Craigslist.com. It's a Web site people use to sell or buy just about anything.

    "It appeared that the priest in charge of an Episcopal church was selling sex on Craigslist. I was outraged," said a man who only wants to be known as Jake.But after discovering it was possibly a priest offering massages with an extra bit of pleasure --"sensual bodywork" -- afterward, he wanted the public to know everything about Ruk's online life.

    "I thought that his congregation and his church deserved to know what's going on, and they can make whatever judgments they want about it," Jake said.

    So Jake not only contacted the NBC 10 Investigators. He responded to Ruk's ad.

    "When people are online, they could have friendly conversation," Jake said.

    But Jake said the conversation seemed to go beyond friendly.And an e-mail spelled out what the money was for.

    But Jake said things got even racier when they went from e-mails to intimate details while instant messaging.

    "I liked how sensitive the bodywork seemed," read one line, and another said, "Are you naked during it?"

    So, Hairston went to Ruk's home, where he denied the e-mail account was his until Hairston pointed out it's listed on church records.

    Ruk also denied his cell phone number was on the e-mail, but it, too, is listed on church records.

    Ruk told Hairston to call him the next day, promising to have some answers.

    "Oh, he changed it," Hairston said, discovering that Ruk had shut off his phone.Hairston found Ruk at the church, and he said the reverend didn't seem happy to see him.

    "Come on out and talk to us for a moment, Mike. We already saw you ducking out the window," Hairston said.

    Suddenly, a church member showed up and opened the door.

    "Can we sit down?" Hairston asked.

    "No. You can, but you can't," Ruk said, pointing to the cameraman.Inside the church, Ruk admitted to writing the ads and the e-mails but said he never followed through on the ads, Hairston said.

    Ruk then called the dean of his church for advice.

    "I am responsible for all of the Episcopal priests in this deanery, and they are accountable to me in some ways. It is my advice to him not to say anything else until we talk to the bishop," said Daniell Hamby, the church's dean.

    Moments later, the two left, making with no further comment.

    "What I would prefer is that you just let us call you if there's anything else," Hamby said.

    The assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania said that they are taking the matter seriously and are investigating.

    The bishop also said any kind of online behavior like that by a priest would be inappropriate.

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