The Archbishop - a Look Back at Lessons from a 1990s Sex Scandal
April 21, 2002
(CBS) Pope John Paul II has summoned America's cardinals to the Vatican this week to deal with the growing outrage over accusations that some American church leaders, including Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, covered up the problem of pedophile priests and knowingly moved them to unsuspecting parishes. If you think you've heard all this before, you have.
Nine years ago, Mike Wallace reported that Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, N. M., had been doing exactly that. The archbishop even took it a step further. It turned out he had been sexually active himself - with young women. That aside, his parishioners told us that the archbishop had known about pedophile priests for years, but had done nothing to stop them.
The archbishop left New Mexico, and now, nine years later, the church still refuses to reveal where he's gone, but in his wake, the church and its insurance companies have paid out more than $30 million to settle 187 lawsuits brought against the archdiocese of New Mexico.
Attorney Steven Tinkler, who filed many of those suits told 60 Minutes it was those huge settlements that finally forced the church at least in New Mexico, to start monitoring and screening priests for signs of pedophilia. And Tinkler says that during the nine years since Archbishop Sanchez left, he's heard of only one new incident of child abuse by a priest.
Marlene Debray-Nowak says she complained to the archbishop three times that her 10- and 12-year-old sons, Tom and Mark, were being fondled by Father Arthur Perrault. Nonetheless, over the years, the archbishop promoted Father Perrault to head the largest parish in the state.
An avalanche of lawsuits hit the New Mexico courts, charging numerous priests there with child abuse. The lawsuits include allegations that Father Perrault abused at least six more children after Marlene Debray-Nowak had reported him to the archbishop.
Says Debray-Nowak: "The tragedy of it is, sir, that we did not know until recently that this didn't happen two or three times. This happened 25 or 30 times, sir, in my home, sometimes when we, my husband and I, were in the house."
"My son Tom did not tell me this until he was 29 years old and I thought I'd fall out of my chair. They protected them, sir. They protected the priest because he was a priest. And when you ask why, you ask these children, "Why did you do this?" - even when they were adults — "Because he was a priest. Because the nuns taught us in catechism that we mustn't say anything bad about the priests. We'd go to hell because he represented "God." That's what makes this crime so despicable."
She says she holds the archbishop "100 percent" responsible: "The buck stops at his desk. He is the honcho, the boss. And his job is to protect the children, among other things.
The church itself estimates that more than 100 children were abused by about 20 priests. Attorney Bruce Pasternak, who represents the victims, alleges several hundred children were probably molested.
"Parents have come to us and told us that they personally met with the archbishop and complained that their children had been sexually molested by priests. Letters in the files reflect that the archbishop was warned by other bishops, by psychologists, by people in the community - in the Catholic community," says Pasternak. "All down the years, he continued to receive those warnings and did not stop the pedophilia, I'm afraid."
"New Mexico became a center for the accumulation of the world's pedophile priests," he says. "Servants of the Paraclete, a facility operated by a small order of priests, was started here in 1947. And over time, it became the place where pedophiles from all over the world were sent."
Paraclete House tries to rehabilitate pedophile priests. Over the years, many of the priests who came here went to work in the archdiocese of New Mexico when their treatment ended.
Tim Martinez recently revealed that when he was just 14, Father Jason Sigler seduced him into having oral sex.
Tim says he had sex with Father Sigler for six years. During that time, Sigler was treated for pedophilia at Paraclete House, but he would get weekend passes and have sex with Tim. Witnesses say they told the archbishop about Sigler's pedophilia, but the archbishop didn't stop the priest.
Eventually he was released from Paraclete House. Then he went to Saint Therese, which is a church in Albuquerque.
According to Martinez, he was put in charge of supervising the altar boys.
"The way the church approached the whole situation of pedophilia was that all you have to do is pray about it and everything will be OK," says Martinez.
But it wasn't OK for the altar boys at Saint Therese, many of whom, according to the lawsuits, were molested by Father Sigler. Other priests molested girls. Susan Saldoval says that she was 15 and working in a church office when the archbishop's close friend, Father Robert Kirsch, forced himself on her and took her virginity.
The affair went on until she was 18, she says.
She has "no doubt" that the archbishop knew what was going on between her and Father Kirsch.
"Father Kirsch introduced me to the archbishop on several occasions. Father Kirsch had a situation where his prior improprieties were reported to the diocesan office," she says.
And Susan says when she was 16 she told the youth director for the archdiocese that she was having sex with Father Kirsch. She says the youth director, who worked closely with the archbishop, wasn't surprised, and indicated it wasn't a problem.
Wallace found Kirsch on a 10-mile pilgrimage. At first, another priest tried to keep 60 Minutes crews away from him.
Wallace read to Father Kirsch what Susan Sandoval said about him: "She was 15 years old in 1974 when she took a nap one day on a cot in the office and she woke up with Father Robert Kirsch's tongue in her mouth."
"Not true," Father Kirsch replied.
Wallace continued: "Kirsch was her parish priest in a small New Mexico town, in a small New Mexico town. She lost her virginity that day." Kirsch denied it.
"Why do you think Susan Sandoval would say that?" Wallace asked.
"Because Bruce Pasternak told her to say it," Kirsch replied.
"He made it up for her?" Wallace asked.
"Correct," Kirsch said.
But Father Kirsch, in a court deposition, had already admitted that he did have intercourse with Susan Sandoval. Still, he said that didn't violate his vow of chastity because when he had sex with her, there was no passion.
A priest who has worked with the archbishop here in New Mexico for 18 years has told us he has confirmed that since the 1970's Sanchez has known about priests molesting children here.
But this priest told us that the archbishop's top priority has been to preserve and protect the church's image, not his parishioners' children. And so, this priest said, the archbishop has simply refused to stop the pedophilia or even to warn parents about it.
Finally, jolted by the lawsuits, the Catholic Church sent Father Ron Wolf to New Mexico. Father Wolf says his job is to clean up the mess.
"Shouldn't the archbishop have stopped the molesting of the children by priests years ago? He's been archbishop here since 1974, no?" Wallace asked him.
"That's right," said Wolf. "And, but the point is, Mike, as I look at it, that the nature of pedophilia was not that well known in terms of what was involved with it from a psychological standpoint. Number two, pedophiles were being treated....treated by psychologists."
Over the years the archbishop knew perfectly well that pedophilia was going on in his archdiocese, and never moved to stop it. Why not, Wallace asked Wolf.
"I don't have all the answers as I sit here, Mike. I'd be a liar if I did," Wolf said.
"It's a mark, it's a blemish on the priesthood," Wolf said.
But it turns out that the archbishop, despite his vow of celibacy, has been sexually active himself. Three women are breaking a silence that has lasted almost half their lives to say that Archbishop Robert Sanchez took sexual advantage of them soon after he became archbishop. They say they're coming forward now to stop the child abuse.
One of the women was Judy Maloof. "Part of the way that he seduced me was through using spiritual language and my religiosity. At the time, I was a very devout Catholic. I think he exploited my spirituality by comparing me at times with powerful religious icons like the Virgin of Guadalupe."
"I mean, that, one of the outcomes of my affair with him was within a few months after he terminated the relationship, I lost my faith," she says.
All three women say they were very religious, innocent and trusting. Judy was 19 when the relationship began. Cathy Mendoza and Patty Madrid were 18. The archbishop was 40. Soon after he met them, the archbishop took Cathy and Patty on a private camping trip.
Says Mendoza: "The thing that really surprised me, Mike, was that he put his sleeping bag between us. And I thought... I thought it was strange. I didn't say anything, but I thought, "Well, here's this very important person, who I thought was next to God. He must know what he's doing."
"During the middle of the night, he assaulted me," she says. "He put his hand in my sleeping bag and - and fondled my breasts.
"I was very naive, very naive. And I had no idea what was going on, what to do, what to say. Should I say something?" She said nothing. "I was scared. I was really scared."
Patty Madrid says she "wasn't aware that was happening to Cathy. As for my part, the only thing I remember is that he did roll over and he did kiss me."
Cathy and Patty say though they did not have intercourse with the archbishop, over the years, he would kiss and fondle and caress them.
Patty says that once, when the archbishop was caressing her, he said to her, 'If only your father knew what he was missing?'
"As I look back on the abuse, for me, I think it did take on an incestual - whatever, because that's how he presented himself to me, as a father figure," she says.
Wallace asked Wolf whether the archbishop was reluctant to act because he had participated in sexual abuse himself.
Wolf responded that he had no proof: "I tell them, put up or shut up. Come on in here. Just don't go behind his back talking. If you've got the proof, give it to me."
Wallace then played a tape of Judy Maloof's accusation. "Fair enough," Wolf said.
When the archbishop heard what the young women told Wallace, he resigned. Wolf called the resignation an admission of guilt.
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