Sanchez Believed Warnings, Transfers Would End Sex Abuse

By Jessie Milligan
Albuquerque Tribune (New Mexico)
March 20, 1998


During the nearly 20-year tenure of former Archbishop Robert Sanchez, priests accused of molesting children were sometimes reassigned instead of being removed — no matter how shocking the allegations.

In a court document released Thursday — an October 1994 deposition — the former Archbishop of Santa Fe gave more detail about the extent of pedophilia in the Roman Catholic archdiocese and described a church that was sometimes slow to respond to allegations of molestation.

The 285,000-member Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which includes most of Northern New Mexico, has settled at least 171 sexual-abuse lawsuits and has five to 10 more pending, Nancy Kazik, vice chancellor of the archdiocese, said this week.

The lawsuits have not only shaken faith in the church, but have pushed the archdiocese to the brink of bankruptcy, forcing it to sell land holdings to pay $1 million in counseling for victims and an undisclosed sum in the millions of dollars to settle lawsuits.

Thursday, State District Court Judge Susan Conway released the second of two depositions — pretrial statements — that Sanchez made to attorneys in connection with the sexual-abuse lawsuits.

The statement released Thursday was made in October 1994 and describes specific incidents and how the archdiocese did — or did not — respond.

In the deposition, Sanchez defends his decision to transfer priests, saying he did not understand the extent of pedophilia and felt if he warned priests that they would not repeat the offense.

In an earlier deposition released in 1996, Sanchez, who was archbishop between 1974 and 1993, said he knew pedophilia was immoral but did not realize it was a crime. He also acknowledged he violated his own vows of celibacy by sexual or physical contact with 11 women during an 18-year period.

In the latest deposition, Sanchez said he did take quick action on several occasions to see that troubled priests were removed from their parishes.

An example:

He said that upon learning of allegations of sex abuse, he asked the pastor in the Rev. Jason Sigler's parish "to see that Father Sigler was out of the parish immediately the next day and would report up to Jemez Springs," to the Servants of the Paraclete, a facility for troubled priests. Sigler was accused of multiple instances of abusing altar boys in Albuquerque, Fort Sumner and Las Vegas, N.M. In 1983, he pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal sexual penetration of a minor.

Not all resolutions were so speedy. From the pages of the October 1994 deposition, here are three other examples of the archdiocese's response to allegations of abuse:

The Ed Donelan Case

In one incident from 1976, Sanchez told attorneys he had received a telephone call alleging that a priest — the late Rev. Ed Donelan — had been seen at a church-approved boys ranch lying naked on his side on a fur rug while embracing a boy.

In the deposition, Sanchez said he sent his long-time friend, the Rev. Sabine Griego, to investigate the conditions at the ranch. Griego was later accused of child molestation himself.

Sanchez closed the Donelan-run Hacienda de los Muchachos in Farley, N.M., shortly after the complaint about Donelan.

The deposition makes lurid but vague reference to wild goings-on at the Hacienda, including allegations Sanchez said he received that there was a room called the "skin room" and that the Hacienda was home to "bachelor weekends." Sanchez said in the deposition he never asked about the specifics of those terms.

He transferred Donelan to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Santa Fe. Donelan was allowed to continue performing duties as a priest, Sanchez said.

Donelan died in 1994, just a few months after being named in a sex-abuse lawsuit dating to the days he ran the boys ranch in Farley, east of Springer in Northern New Mexico.

His obituary said he retired from the priesthood in 1994.

The Clive Lynn Case

In the case of the Rev. Clive Lynn, the archdiocese — and the pope — received letters with allegations of sexual and other improprieties.

But the church's response was to transfer Lynn from St. Gertrude's Church in Mora to St. Joseph's Church in Raton. Then, after allegations continued, the archdiocese allowed Lynn to stay on for six months in Raton before transferring him from the parish and then, almost a year later, limiting his duties as a priest. He eventually left the country for "the British Isles," church officials have said.

Here's Lynn's case history, as described in the deposition:

Lynn was the subject of a letter to Sanchez in August 1980. In that letter, an anonymous accuser said while Lynn was a priest in Mora, he made sexual advances "to me and other boys."

Sanchez testified that he probably confronted Lynn about the charge, but "I cannot swear that I actually did or when I actually did it because I have no recollection."

He said he also couldn't remember a letter from Mora parishioners to Pope John Paul II, saying they had complained to Sanchez about Lynn.

In 1981, according to the deposition, Sanchez got a letter from a mental-health worker about Lynn, saying, "I am not writing to inform you of the situation, as I know you are already aware of it. I'm writing due to my knowledge of the long-term, damaging effects of adults acting out their sexual distress on young people."

Sanchez said he couldn't recall the letter he wrote in response, in which he wrote that the allegations would be discussed by the "proper persons."

He said he didn't remove Lynn from service, as he had done with some other priests accused of sexual misconduct, because the allegations weren't specific.

In December 1981, the archdiocese transferred Lynn from Mora to Raton.

Sanchez said that in October and November 1984, he got several letters about Lynn, including at least one expressing concern about his attraction to young boys.

In December 1984, the New Mexico Human Services Department wrote the archdiocese informing it of allegations of sex abuse by Lynn. Sanchez said in the deposition that the letter came during the Christmas season and that may have been why he didn't immediately respond.

The Human Services Department sent a similar letter to the archdiocese on Feb. 28, 1985.

Sanchez said he first talked to Lynn about those allegations of sex abuse in early March 1985.

But Lynn was not removed from the parish until late June 1985, in part because of a normal 30-day notice to departing priests, and also for further extensions given by Sanchez for reasons he said he did not recall.

"Why wasn't he removed immediately within 24 hours?" asked attorney for the victims, Steve Tinkler, during the deposition.

Sanchez responded that Lynn had been confronted, warned and informed of his pending dismissal.

Sanchez said he felt that was adequate and "no further actions on his part would result that might be harmful to anyone in the parish or offensive to anyone."

According to the deposition, when Lynn was transferred out of St. Joseph parish, Sanchez wrote him a letter saying, "You have served them well and you are a dedicated priest. As I told you personally, I am most grateful to you for the love and ministry that you have extended to these people. I wish only to help your ministry become more effective."

His privileges as a priest were revoked in April 1986, although he was not removed from the priesthood.

By 1989, the archdiocese settled out-of-court for more than $500,000 with the family of an altar boy from St. Gertrude's Parish in Mora. The family claimed that in the 1970s the then-9-year-old boy had been abused by Lynn.

Church officials have been quoted as saying Lynn left the United States for Britain sometime after 1989.

The Sabine Griego Case

Sabine Griego was ordained in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in the mid- or late 1960s. Sanchez said in the deposition that he and Griego had been friends since the late 1960s.

Griego was pastor of St. Eleanor Church in Ruidoso in 1974 and later served at Our Lady of Sorrows Church and at Immaculate Conception Church in Las Vegas. He also was a priest at Queen of Heaven Church in Albuquerque.

Sanchez said he removed Griego from Queen of Heaven after allegations of sex abuse. He referred Griego, as he had several other priests, to a therapy center in Canada.

After sex-abuse allegations surfaced in 1991, Sanchez was asked why nothing was recorded in Greigo's personnel file about the allegations.

"I did not place any memos simply because I was going to be taking actions, and action is exactly what I took immediately," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said he "confronted Griego immediately, and he resigned his parish and said his farewell Mass for the parish."

Upon his return, Griego was not removed from the priesthood, but instead taken out of the parish setting and placed as a hospital chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital in Albuquerque, Sanchez said. The deposition does not detail the specific years.

In the deposition, Sanchez said he did socialize with Griego over the years, but he said he did not know of the extent of Griego's "problem" until Griego was given a leave of absence due to sex allegations in late 1992 and had an exit interview with Sanchez, who had been Griego's roommate for much of 1992.

In 1993, Griego studied psychology, including family counseling and medical ethics at UNM, then was hired in 1995 by the state of New Mexico to serve as a psychologist at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in Grants. He worked for three months and then resigned as five civil lawsuits alleging sex abuse were filed against him. At least one was settled by the archdiocese in 1995 for $1.5 million.

How the deposition became public

Conway ruled that the first deposition taken in January 1994 could be made public because an attorney representing one of the abuse victims agreed to its release.

But after the testimony was made public, the attorney withdrew his consent, leaving no party to the abuse lawsuits willing to release further documents.

The Tribune and the Albuquerque Journal unsuccessfully sought access to the second deposition taken in October 1994.

KOB-TV Channel 4 later found an abuse victim who was involved in the lawsuits who was willing to release the October 1994 deposition.

"Based upon the affidavit of (the victim) filed by KOB-TV . . . the court will review the October 1994 transcript of the former archbishop," Conway wrote in a court order.

Upon review, Conway edited out significant portions of the deposition, including any mention of previously undisclosed clergy, victims, alleged victims and family members.

Her decision to release the deposition was not appealed by attorneys for the archdiocese. The archdiocese has refused comment on the October 1994 deposition.

Tribune reporters John Hill, Shonda Novak and Jason Gibbs contributed to this report.

Timeline of events

July 1974: Robert Sanchez is named archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the first native New Mexican to be named an archbishop.

1976: Sanchez learns of sexual abuse of a child by a priest. He later would hear allegations of improper conduct by as many as 11 other priests.

August 1991: First of about 170 lawsuits charging sexual misconduct by priests is filed. The cases include allegations that date to the mid-1950s.

March 1993: Sanchez's resignation is announced two days before CBS News' "60 Minutes" airs a storyin which three women, including Judy Maloof of New Mexico's powerful Maloof business family, said they had intimate relationships with him.

April 1993: Pope John Paul II accepts Sanchez's resignation and appoints Bishop Michael Sheehan of Lubbock as head of the Santa Fe Archdiocese. Sanchez leaves New Mexico to live in seclusion.

January 1994: Sanchez gives a deposition in priest sex-abuse lawsuits. A deposition is a question-and-answer session for attorneys to gain information before a trial.

April 1994: The Tribune files a lawsuit seeking to have Sanchez's deposition made public. The Albuquerque Journal and KOB-Channel 4 later join the lawsuit.

October 1994: Sanchez gives a second deposition to attorneys.

March 1995: State District Judge Susan Conway orders the release of part of the January 1994 deposition. Conway placed a protective order on the October 1994 deposition, however, after a plaintiff's attorney withdrew an affidavit approving its release.

August 1996: The state Court of Appeals upholds Conway's ruling on the release of the January 1994 deposition.

September 1996: The state Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal filed by lawyers for Sanchez and the archdiocese, clearing the way for the release of the January 1994 deposition, a 676-page document. In that deposition, Sanchez said he did not know pedophilia was a crime and that he avoided public action on the issue because he did not want to cause scandal in the parishes. Sanchez also revealed that he had sexual relations with 11 women over an 18-year period.

June 1997: Two plaintiffs who say they were sexually abused by priests file an affidavit saying they believe the public would benefit from information in the October 1994 deposition.

October and November 1997: KOB-TV reported that Sanchez had lived for a time with the Sisters of Mercy nuns in the 3,500-resident town of Jackson, Minn. Several weeks later, Sanchez led a retreat for priests in Tucson, where church officials said it was their understanding it was one of several religious retreats Sanchez recently led in the country and abroad.

March 1998: Judge Conway rules that the 806-page deposition taken in October 1994 should be released. It reveals information on what Sanchez knew about pedophilia and how he handled specificcases.

Tribune files

Sanchezs deposition excerpts

On the state of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe when the Rev. Robert Sanchez first became archbishop in 1974:

"No, there were no written policies that had been established for guidance, you know, of various functions of the archdiocese. We had no written personnel policies, no written financial policies. Things were handled ad hoc, you might say."

(Sanchez in 1990 established his own written policies for handling allegations of sex abuse)

On how Sanchez said he felt for the priests and their victims:

"I am saddened that priests have been, in a sense, wounded in themselves to the point where they have possibly committed acts of this nature. It just caused me to be sad."

On learning in 1985 that sex abuse of children was called pedophilia, Sanchez described what his understanding had been before that time:

"I think it was commonly referred to as being with young boys, touching young boys, playing around with boys. This was the sort of common language that would be used, but they didn't have a technical term to describe what you call sexual misconduct as pedophilia; at least that was not known to us."

On why he did not talk to the children who were alleging abuse:

"If the people themselves, the families would have asked their pastor, 'Can we speak with the archbishop,' I would have gone to their homes or they would have come to my office immediately. I've never refused to speak to anyone."

On whether Sanchez ever considered that someone who abuses one child may abuse others:

"No, sir, I do not recall ever sitting down or reflecting upon that possibility. I had more than enough on my plate to put my mind to and to be concerned about, and I simply did not take that time to reflect in that manner."

On his personal view of how a priest who had impregnated a parishioner should be treated:

"I think when I became the Archbishop, my view of an incident of that nature would have depended upon the individual involved, what had occurred, and what the attitude of that individual was as far as the incident, and what their own resolve would be for the future. I would not have looked upon one incident as being totally destructive of his priestly character or priestly resolve."

On his understanding of the emotional impact on children of molestation:

"I am told, and I guess I would say I certainly have read, as well as being told, that people who are abused do suffer emotional stress or damage to various degrees."

Tribune staff


1934: He was born in Socorro where he attended Mount Carmel (Elementary) School and Socorro High.

1954-1960: Studied for priesthood at Rome's North American College.

1959: Ordained as a priest, age 25.

1960-1968: Served as an instructor and counselor at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque.

1968-1971: Served as pastor of parishes in Roy and Mosquero in Northern New Mexico.

1971-1974: Pastor of San Felipe de Neri in Old Town.

July 25, 1974: Installed as Archbishop of Santa Fe.

March 1993: Resigns as archbishop days before CBS's "60 Minutes" was scheduled to air allegations that he had sexual relations with threefemale parishioners.


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