Arch­dio­cese of Santa Fe faces five new sex abuse law­suits

Al­le­ga­tions date back as far as 1950

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Phae­dra Hay­wood phay­wood@sfnewmex­i­can.com

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.”

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