Suit Alleges Cleric Abuse

By Wren Propp
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
July 4, 1995

A 51-year-old New Mexico man is suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the estate of a Roman Catholic priest who, he claims, sexually abused him for several months in 1957.

The man, who was 13 when the alleged abuse occurred at a parish hall in Anton Chico, N.M., was identified only as "M.S." in the 1st District Court suit, filed Thursday. The suit said it used fictitious initials to prevent further "embarrassment and humiliation" to the plaintiff.

The suit also claims negligence by the archdiocese and the priest, who it identified as John Peris, deceased.

Janet Clow, the attorney for "M.S.," said she believes Peris is dead. She said Peris apparently returned to Spain some time after the alleged sexual abuse took place.

Karen Kennedy, attorney for the archdiocese, said Monday that she is uncertain whether Peris is dead. If he is, the complaint by "M.S." is one of a recent spate of lawsuits filed against dead priests in New Mexico.

"I'm disappointed that the newest lawsuits are against dead priests who can't defend themselves," Kennedy said in a telephone interview from her Albuquerque office Monday.

She hasn't seen the "M.S." complaint, she said.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said she wasn't aware of Peris' presence in New Mexico in 1957. The archdiocese caseworker on sexual abuse claims wasn't available Monday.

Clow didn't specify the amount of damages "M.S." is seeking.

The suit says "M.S.," who lived in the nearby town of Dahlia, moved to the parish hall in the late summer of 1957 so he could ride the bus to high school. The suit said the bus stopped 12 miles from Dahlia.

The suit claims that Peris, who also lived at the parish hall, soon began abusing "M.S." and continued the abuse until "M.S." moved out, before Christmas 1957.

"M.S." claimed in the suit that he suffers from depression, embarrassment, shame, humiliation and other symptoms because of the alleged abuse. He said it has also caused him to be isolated from his wife, family and the Roman Catholic church.

Kennedy said two state district judges in Albuquerque have decided that in cases of sexual abuse complaints assigned to them, the plaintiffs filing under pseudonyms must reveal their identities.


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