March 29, 2019
By Susan Montoya Bryan
Religious orders once associated with a now-shuttered Catholic boarding school for Native Americans are being accused of failing to protect students from sexual abuse by clergy and faculty.
An Ohio-based order of Franciscan Friars and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, headquartered in Pennsylvania, are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed this week in a New Mexico court by a team of lawyers that has represented dozens of abuse survivors over the years.
The accusations center on a student who attended St. Catherine’s Indian School in Santa Fe during the 1980s, but attorneys for the unnamed plaintiff say the case speaks to broader issues.
The case comes as the Catholic church wrestles with a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has spanned the globe. New Mexico’s largest diocese is among the religious organizations seeking bankruptcy protection as a result, having spending more than $50 million over the years to settle hundreds of lawsuits.
The latest case surfaced as the plaintiff’s legal team was preparing a claim against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as part of the bankruptcy case. While the archdiocese is currently immune from separate claims outside the bankruptcy proceedings, lawyers say civil cases can be brought against other religious organizations that might be accused of bearing some responsibility.
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