Canada Bars N.M. Sex Abuse Suits against Archdiocese

Associated Press, carried in Albuquerque Journal [New Mexico]
January 12, 1998

Santa Fe — New Mexico victims of alleged sexual abuse by a priest ordained in Canada can't bring damage suits against the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, the state Court of Appeals ruled.

The court, in a unanimous decision last week, upheld the dismissal of suits by two men because New Mexico courts don't have jurisdiction over the archdiocese in Canada.

The suits sought damages for alleged sexual abuse by former priest Jason Sigler, who came to New Mexico in 1970.

The ruling by the court mirrored its decision last year in suits by three other men against the Archdiocese of Winnipeg involving alleged sexual abuse by Sigler when they were children. The ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which declined to consider the cases.

Sigler had been ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg in 1964. The suit contends church leaders in Canada were negligent because they failed to properly supervise Sigler and warn the church in New Mexico concerning Sigler's pedophilia.

Sigler came to New Mexico in 1970 for treatment at the Servants of the Holy Paraclete center in Jemez Springs and then served as a priest at several churches in New Mexico. Sigler had left Canada in 1968 to serve as a priest in Michigan, and then he came to New Mexico.

The appeals court said the church in Canada wasn't subject to the authority of New Mexico courts under the state's "long-arm" law.

The court said there wasn't evidence that the Archdiocese of Winnipeg knew Sigler was a pedophile when he left Canada or that Winnipeg "continued to maintain any significant relationship with Sigler after it learned he was a pedophile."

Stephen Tinkler, a Santa Fe lawyer for the men who filed the suit, didn't return a telephone call Thursday seeking comment on the court ruling.


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