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  Brothers Allege Molestations at St. Mike's

By Aaron Baca
Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
May 18, 1995

Michael and his brother Paul Ortiz y Pino were students at St. Michael's in the 1950s when they first learned to feel guilt and shame.

That's when the men were young elementary school students and were sexually molested by four Catholic brothers, according to a pair of lawsuits filed Wednesday in District Court in Santa Fe on behalf of the Ortiz y Pino brothers.

The Catholic brothers identified in the suits were teachers at St. Michael's and The College of Santa Fe at the time.

"(Michael and Paul) kept it inside them and they never told anybody (about the molestations)," said Merit Bennett, one of two attorneys representing the Ortiz y Pino brothers. "They never even told each other."

At least not until about a year and a half ago, when the humiliation felt by the Ortiz y Pino brothers finally came to the surface, Bennett said.

"Neither one knew the other had been abused," he said.

One of the two men, Michael Ortiz y Pino, had even been studying to become a brother with the Christian organization that runs St. Michael's, at the time the molestations occurred, Bennett said.

Michael didn't finish his studies to be a brother.

The Ortiz y Pino brothers are seeking unspecified damages against their former teachers, the Christian Brothers organization (the parent organization that runs St. Michael's), and a Louisiana corporation of which the Christian Brothers is a part.

The Christian Brothers corporation knew about the molestations but covered them up, Bennett and his law partner Stephen Tinkler said Wednesday.

"You haven't heard anything about this before have you?" Bennett said. "When you have as many Christian brothers in this institution as there were, certainly more than one person is going to know about (the abuses)."

Bennett and Tinkler together have been involved in about 35 separate lawsuits that allege sexual misconduct by either the Archdiocese of Santa Fe or other clerical orders, the two said. The abuses in the suits handled by the attorneys have ranged from the 1950s through the mid-1980s.

Brother James "Nic" Grahmann, president of the board of trustees for the St. Michael's College corporation, said he had not yet seen or heard of the lawsuits.

"And I can tell you that when I do see (the suits), I won't be able to comment about it," he said.

The Boy Scouts of America and a former assistant scoutmaster also are named as defendants in one of the lawsuits.

In his suit, Paul Ortiz y Pino said he was molested at different times throughout elementary school and junior high by the late Brother Abdon, former Brother Louis Brouseau of Albuquerque, and Brother Tom McConnell of Denver.

"Abdon, McConnell and Brouseau took advantage of their access to (Paul Ortiz y Pino) . . . by independently performing non-consentual sex acts on (Ortiz y Pino)," the suit states.

In the other suit, Michael Ortiz y Pino said he was molested by Brother Abdon when he was a student at St. Michael's, and by Brother Alex, who is said to still live in New Mexico, when Ortiz y Pino was studying to join the Christian Brothers at the Junior Novitiate at The College of Santa Fe.

During the period from 1955 to 1957 when the alleged abuses by the Christian Brothers occurred, Michael was in the Boy Scouts and he claims he was also molested by an assistant scoutmaster named Joseph Durr, the suit states.

The New Mexico Boy Scouts and Boy Scouts of America did nothing to protect Ortiz y Pino after they learned of the abuses, and, in fact, participated in a cover-up of the incidents, the suit states.

No one from that organization could be reached for comment on Wednesday evening.

"Both (Michael and Paul) have been getting therapy," Bennett said. "Right now, they're in therapy and counseling. Each of their abuses are different . . . some were by different (Christian) brothers. But the fact remains they occurred at St. Michael's.

"This is very difficult to deal with for people who've been abused," Bennett said. "There's shame and guilt that's been carried around for 30 or 40 years."

 
 

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