Suit Links Priest to Sex 'Club'

By Susanne Burks
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
May 5, 1995

An Albuquerque woman has filed a priest sex-abuse suit with a new twist. She alleges that the accused priest formed a "Girls Club" at his church as a vehicle for finding victims.

The priest "utilized the girls club as a medium for screening young girls . . . for the purpose of serving his own deviant needs and performing sexual acts, in other words sexually molesting young girls," alleges the suit by a woman identified only as "D.A."

Only a handful of the some 95 priest sex-abuse lawsuits filed in state District Court in Albuquerque have female plaintiffs, and the girls club allegation is unique.

The plaintiff names as defendants The Franciscan Brothers Charity Inc., the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and priest Lorenzo Ruiz.

Archdiocese attorney Karen Kennedy was unavailable for comment, and Sister Nancy Kazik, archdiocese vice chancellor and "case manager" of the priest suits, sent word Thursday that she knows nothing about the new suit.

The Rev. Gilbert Schneider, Franciscan provincial in Albuquerque, said he doesn't know what The Franciscan Brothers Charity is. Schneider said he would try to reach Ruiz for the Journal but wouldn't reveal where he lives.

"The last we heard, he was in the Denver area," said Albuquerque attorney Thomas Tabet, who, with Michael Alarid Jr., filed the suit last week.

Plaintiff "D.A." says in the suit that she was a 10-year-old sixth-grader in 1978, the year she was recruited by Ruiz to be involved in the Girls Club, defined as a group of about 15-20 girls organized and led by Ruiz.

The suit says Ruiz, then a priest at Holy Family Church, would take the girls on outings -- such as to the movies, give them money and buy them presents.

"Ruiz progressively used his position as a priest . . . to condition the young girls . . . to accept hugs, kisses, touching and fondling . . . and other sexual acts, including sexual intercourse," the suit alleges.

"D.A." also alleges that Ruiz introduced the young girls to the use of alcohol and illegal drugs and says she became an alcoholic and drug addict. She alleges that Ruiz sexually molested her and also describes his alleged manner of operation in his contacts with her and other girls.

She claims severe damage to her life as a result of the molestation and addiction, alleges numerous civil wrongs and asks for unspecified amounts of damages.

In another development, the last defendant in one of the first priest sex- abuse suits filed in state District Court has been dismissed.

State District Judge Diane Dal Santo in an order filed Thursday dismissed the Diocese of El Paso from a 1992 lawsuit alleging sex abuse by former priest David Holley.

Attorney Bruce Pasternack said the 16 plaintiffs have also released their claims against Holley. Claims against other defendants were dismissed earlier at different times.

Holley is serving a 275-year prison sentence for his 1993 conviction of crimes against eight boys, now men, who are among the 16 plaintiffs in the civil suit.

Many of the other lawsuits filed by Pasternack were settled last year, and certain other priest suits filed by different lawyers are being settled in bits and pieces.


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