Archdiocese of Santa Fe faces five new sex abuse lawsuits
Allegations date back as far as 1950
Five new lawsuits were filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe this week by people who say they suffered lifelong problems after being sexually assaulted as children by Catholic clergy in Central and Northern New Mexico.
Three of the suits involve people who allege they were assaulted by priests in Albuquerque, one involves allegations against an Abiquiú priest and one involves allegations against a priest formerly serving in Ranchos de Taos.
The archdiocese did not respond to a phone message and email seeking comment for this story.
“These men and women in our communities carried the secret of their sexual abuse by the priests around all their lives, having been shamed and warned about telling anyone, living with various levels of inexplicable anxiety or depression, and now for the first time are coming forward and getting professional help,” said Levi Monagle, an attorney in the Law Offices of Brad D. Hall, which filed the complaints Thursday in state District Court in Albuquerque.
The lawsuits allege abuses occurred as long ago as 1950 and as recently as the late 1980s.
One of the complaints, filed on behalf of
Jane Doe “L,” says the woman was assaulted by the Rev. Arthur Perrault — who has been accused of molesting nearly 40 victims over a 30-year period and was recently extradited to Albuquerque from Morocco to face criminal charges in a different molestation case.
Perrault plied the plaintiff with wine and sexually abused her when he was working at St. Bernadette Parish in Albuquerque in 1988, not long before he fled town, according to the complaint, and threatened to tell her parents details of her confessions if she ever mentioned the abuse.
“The Archdiocese put Perrault at St. Bernadette’s without telling parishioners that he had psychosexual problems and had been treated at the Paraclete facility,” a congregation in Jemez Springs where the church long sent troubled priests for treatment, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuits all detail not only the abuses allegedly perpetrated by the priests, but the devastating effect the alleged abuse had on the lives of the victims.
In the case of John Doe “93,” the law firm says in its lawsuit, the now 85-year-old’s soul was “veritably shredded” by the abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of the Rev. Joseph Maguire at the San Francisco de Asis Parish in Ranchos de Taos in 1955.
“He lost the ability to trust or believe in anyone,” the law firm said in a statement, “suffering the total loss of his faith and belief in God, which now over sixty years later has him reaching out for help, though inconsolable as he unpacks the childhood trauma.”
The complaints also include allegations against the Rev. Ralph Pairon from the St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Abiquiú, allegations against the Rev. Wilfred Bombardier from his time at the St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Albuquerque and allegations against the Rev. Ignacio Tafoya from his time at the St. Therese Parish in Albuquerque.
The victim in that case suppressed the memories for more than 30 years, according to the lawsuit, becoming a “cutter” and developing a drinking problem and other psychological issues he only now is trying to address.
The Hall firm says in the new complaints that the efforts of the Catholic church to hide sexual abuse by clergy members made it even more difficult for victims to heal because in many cases they were not aware until decades later that the abuse was the likely source of problems such as sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, “just as an asbestos patient could not possibly understand the link between exposure to asbestos decades earlier and his current medical problems.”
Attorney Hall has handled the bulk of the church sex abuse civil cases in New Mexico for the past several decades.
Monagle said Friday the firm has filed about 100 cases against various religious organizations in the state, about 25 of which are still pending.
Monagle estimated the firm has settled about 60 of those cases but said the settlement agreements contain confidentiality clauses that prevent the firm from disclosing the amounts of payments made to plaintiffs.
In 2004, the Rev. Michael J. Sheehan, then Archbishop of Santa Fe, issued a statement saying 44 priests with a connection to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe had been credibly accused of sexual abuse, costing the archdiocese $30.8 million.
Of that, Sheehan said in his statement, $25.3 million was spent on settlements and $4.7 million went for legal fees. Sheehan said about $7.7 million of the settlement money came from the archdiocese and $17.6 million came from insurers.
A year ago, the archdiocese released an updated list of credibly accused clergy which contained 78 names.
The archdiocese did not respond Friday to a request seeking updated numbers and related costs.
In September, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas demanded “full disclosure and full transparency” from dioceses around the state, and referred to a Pennsylvania grand jury report that revealed church officials there had shuffled clergy accused of misconduct to New Mexico.
In his letter to church officials, Balderas asked the three dioceses — Gallup, Santa Fe and Las Cruces — to turn over all documents related to claims of sexual misconduct and to cease any destruction of such documents, adding that he sought the documents in contemplation of litigation.
Asked for a status update on the results of that request Friday, Balderas spokesman David Carl wrote in an email: “Although all three Diocese have indicated a willingness to cooperate with our investigation, we have received little information thus far and are pursuing legal remedies to further our investigation.”