Sex-Abuse Suit Names Priest Expelled by Area Seminary

By Dave Condren
Buffalo News (New York)
February 20, 1994

A priest who was expelled from a Buffalo-area seminary for allegedly molesting children is the subject of a sexual-abuse lawsuit by a former altar boy against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M.

The suit, filed earlier this month in State District Court in Albuquerque, claims that the Rev. Robert J. Smith abused the plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, in 1983 while Father Smith was pastor of Holy Ghost Parish in Albuquerque. It seeks unspecified damages.

Father Smith, who died in 1989, attended the former Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure University, Olean, from 1957 through 1959, according to seminary records. He was dismissed in September 1959, based on information provided to the seminary by the Springfield (Mass.) Police Department.

Neither the seminary nor the Springfield police would reveal the nature of the charges, but Wendy York, the attorney for John Doe, claimed in the court papers that Father Smith, who had not yet been ordained, was arrested for allegedly molesting three children.

The lawsuit contends that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was negligent in approving Father Smith for ordination in 1970 despite his history of abuse.

The plaintiff, who was 13 at the time of the alleged incident, claims he was assaulted in a Socorro, N.M., motel room after watching a World Series game. He contends he has suffered extreme emotional damage as a result of the attack.

The suit contends that the archdiocese "either neglected to check (Father Smith's) references or was fully informed and decided to nevertheless accept him" when it authorized his ordination in 1970.

According to Ms. York, Father Smith applied for admission to at least two other seminaries after being expelled from Christ the King. Both were advised by Christ the King that he "never be considered for the priesthood," she said.

A native of Springfield, Mass., Father Smith, who was still a priest at the time of his death, attended a seminary in Ipswich, Mass., before enrolling in Christ the King. He was 58 when he died. Another former Holy Ghost altar boy filed a similar lawsuit in September, accusing Father Smith of sexual abuse.

The lawsuits are among more than 45 filed in state or federal court against the archdiocese involving alleged sexual abuse by more than 20 priests or former priests.

Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure was closed in 1973 when the Franciscan Friars who had operated it for 116 years took over the operation of St. John Vianney Seminary, a diocesan facility in East Aurora, and changed its name to Christ the King. The Franciscans turned the operation of the seminary back to the Buffalo Diocese in 1990.


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