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  Despite Settlement, Clergy Abuse Haunts Man Accuser Begins Book about His Rough Recovery

By Greg Toppo
Santa Fe New Mexican (New Mexico)
October 3, 1996

Paul Ortiz y Pino finally sat down at his computer last week and wrote the preface for a book about his ongoing recovery from childhood sexual abuse.

"There's a lot of hurt that's happened, especially in this community," he said.

Ortiz y Pino began the book, titled Victim's Road, on Monday, as his attorney settled the lawsuit he had brought last year one of three alleging that Catholic brothers at St. Michael's High School and The College of Santa Fe sexually abused him, his older brother Michael and another student while they were students at the school in the 1950s and '60s.

The two other cases were settled in the past few weeks. Ortiz y Pino learned Monday that his case also had been settled, just a few weeks before state District Judge Steve Herrera was to schedule it for trial.

Attorney Merit Bennett, who filed the lawsuits last year, said they had been settled for undisclosed amounts of cash. The terms of the settlements prohibit him from talking about the awards.

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 and two others.

Michael Ortiz y Pino's suit said he also was molested by Brother Abdon while a St. Michael's student, and by another brother while studying to join the Christian Brothers at the Junior Novitiate at The College of Santa Fe.

A third plaintiff, Alonzo Malone of Albuquerque, filed a suit saying he was molested and psychologically abused by Abdon for several years.

Abdon, who died in 1976, worked at St. Michael's High School for nearly 20 years.

"These are people who had a big impact upon the formation of my life," Ortiz y Pino, 39, said. "Abdon was my hero. He was my mentor."

He added, "These were God's men. They were men who did God's work."

In 1994, Ortiz y Pino first spoke about the abuse to his two brothers and realized they had undergone almost identical experiences.

"Mike would say, 'This happened,' and I could finish his statement, because the same exact thing had happened to me."

Two of the brothers filed lawsuits seeking unspecified damages against the teachers, the Christian Brothers organization that runs St. Michael's, and the Louisiana umbrella group of which the Christian Brothers is a part.

More than 140 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse have been filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Most of the lawsuits, which involved allegations against priests dating back to the 1960s, have been settled.

In testimony released last month, former Archbishop Robert Sanchez said he did not consider sexual abuse a crime. He also said he was unaware of any long-term damage that a child might suffer from sexual abuse, and said he had never initiated extensive investigations into sexual abuse by priests because he didn't want to divide congregations.

Sanchez, 62, resigned in 1993, after three women publicly accused him of having sexual relationships with them.

Ortiz y Pino had hoped the lawsuits would prevent future molestations by forcing the Christian Brothers to "step forward and release the details" of the abuse, but said ultimately he was disappointed after Herrera approved a motion for confidentiality requested by lawyers for St. Michael's, who said the lawsuits should be kept secret because of possible embarrassment to people who might be named as either victims or defendants.

"Once the 'gag order' took effect," he said, "nobody ever heard about any more. It was kind of swept under the rug."

Ortiz y Pino said the order essentially perpetuated the silence surrounding the abuse during his childhood. "Nobody was willing to talk about it when it happened to me," he said. "My brothers weren't willing to talk about it when it happened to them."

He also is disappointed, he said, because the settlements include no admission of liability from the Christian Brothers.

In the 25 years since the abuse, Ortiz y Pino has held several jobs, and now tints windshields.

He has never quite been able to put together a career, he said. "I just built a pattern from that point on of becoming a victim."

He recently separated from his wife of 20 years, and last month declared bankruptcy.

Asked what's next for him, he sighed and replied simply, "I don't know."

As an afterthought, he added, "I don't have a lot of hope. I don't have a lot of joy. I don't feel a lot of happiness in my life, and it's really hard to live through life like that."

 
 

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