Abuse Suits Name State

By Susanne Burks
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
March 1, 1995

The state for the first time has become a defendant in civil suits alleging priest sexual abuse.

State district judges in Albuquerque have allowed the addition of the state Department of Corrections, Department of Health and Department of Human Services to two lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the estate of the late Edward Donelan and other defendants.

The Department of Health is identified as the former New Mexico Social Services Agency. The Department of Human Services is identified as the former State Health Agency.

Donelan, accused of sexual abuse by two unidentified plaintiffs, was a chaplain at the New Mexico Boys' School at Springer, then operated by the Department of Corrections, when he conceived the idea of a ranch for troubled boys in the mid-1960s, according to amended version of the suit.

It says the boys ranch he founded at Farley, N.M. -- the scene of the alleged abuse -- while still Boys' School chaplain was licensed by the state.

Donelan died of cancer Christmas Day. He was 70.

The request to file amended complaints to add the state agencies was made by Albuquerque attorney Wendy York, who said in her motions that she was unaware of Donelan's connections with the state when she filed the original suits.

The amended suits say Donelan was chaplain at the Boys' School from July 1958 through about July 1, 1970, and started the boys ranch, called Hacienda de los Muchachos, in 1966.

By 1971 the Department of Corrections had received complaints by Boys' School residents about Donelan's alleged pedophilia, the suit charges.

Howard Leach, then-Secretary of Corrections, contacted then-Archbishop James P. Davis about his concerns. Davis found no evidence in Donelan's personnel file of homosexual behavior and "this ended the matter for both the state and the archdiocese."

Meanwhile, the Departments of Health and Human Services "continued to license, certify and fund the placement of boys at the ranch" despite at least one complaint and other problems, the suit says.


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