Six More Men Claim Sex Abuse at Hands of Northern New Mexico Priest
By Jackie Jadrnak
May 8, 2013
Six more unnamed men have filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and some of its parishes, claiming that they suffered sexual abuse as teenagers at the hands of the Rev. Michael O’Brien in the 1970s and ’80s.
That brings the total to 10 recent lawsuits filed against the archdiocese for alleged actions committed by O’Brien, who is no longer alive.
The cases in state District Court in Albuquerque are being brought by Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall and the Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark of O’Donnell Clark & Crew LLP.
The men in these latest suits currently range in age from their late 30’s to mid-50’s, according to a news release from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The archdiocese does not comment on pending litigation, but has noted that these cases refer to actions that allegedly occurred a few decades ago.
“It is now clear that there are O’Brien victims spread over half the state, from Estancia to Taos, from Penasco to Vegas and Questa,” Hall said in the news release.
O’Brien, who was ordained in 1970, was known to lead youth on pilgrimages for vocations to the Santuario de Chimayo from the Estancia Valley in the 1970s.
He served at San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos from 1977 to 1981; St. Gertrude Parish in Mora from 1982 to 1984; Las Vegas’ Our Lady of Sorrows from 1985 to 1986, and St. Anthony in Questa from 1987 to 1989.
Five of the latest cases are related to the Ranchos de Taos parish, while the other is connected with the Penasco church.
One plaintiff is a current resident of Bernaillo County, while most of the others are in Taos County.
One man, who alleges incidents of “massage” eventually included rape, said in a lawsuit that, after spending two years overseas in the Gulf War, he confronted O’Brien, who responded “to the effect of ‘I know, I’m working on it, pray for me.’”
Another contends that O’Brien plied the teen with alcohol, and later moved on to abuse a younger member of the plaintiff’s family.
A third claims O’Brien attempted to seduce and rape him at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos and in the rectory while the teen was coping with a family emergency.
Many of the plaintiffs cite the alleged fondling and rapes, sometimes starting with massages and foot-washing, as occurring in the rectory, on pilgrimages, on a trip to Ojo Caliente Hot Springs, or, in one case, in a family cabin in Grand Lake, Colo.
A plaintiff listed as “John Doe 10” alleged in his lawsuit that, when he was about 15, he and his brother stayed with O’Brien in a rectory near Albuquerque’s South Valley. After allegedly being forcibly raped by O’Brien in the middle of the night, the plaintiff went back to Taos, where he “took a gun from his father’s cabinet out to the country to commit suicide. Plaintiff instead made a deal with God to live, but to never look at or talk to His ‘human servants’ again; Plaintiff has never returned to a Catholic Church,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuits contend that the archdiocese must have, or should have, known that O’Brien had a history of sexual abuse with teen boys, but did little to prevent the incidents from continuing. The lawsuits seek compensation for damages, including punitive damages, to the men.