Former St. Genevieve’s head pastor accused of molesting teenage girl in 1970s

Las Cruces Sun News [New Mexico]

March 11, 2021

By Leah Romero

A civil complaint filed Thursday in Albuquerque alleges a former Las Cruces Catholic priest sexually abused a teenage girl in the 1970s. 

Fr. Jesus Goni was a pastor at St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church at the time of the alleged incident.

The plaintiff, who is identified as Jane Doe 43 in the lawsuit, accuses Goni of ordering her into his office in approximately May 1970 and inappropriately touching her. She was about 14 years old at the time. She was brought up to obey priests and did not think she would be believed if she told anyone what had been done to her, the lawsuit stated, and kept the incident secret “for many years.”

This is believed to be the first accusation of sexual abuse against Goni. According to St. Genevieve’s website, Goni became an assistant pastor in 1965 and head pastor in 1970. It appears that he left the church by 1974. 

The plaintiff is asking for a trial by jury and damages to compensate for the emotional stress and physical and psychological harm.

The Catholic Diocese of El Paso and St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church were also named in the complaint as being negligent and failing to prevent the abuse. St. Genevieve’s was a part of the El Paso Diocese at the time. 

Fernando Ceniceros with the Diocese of El Paso said they were unable to provide any information about Goni due to the ongoing lawsuit, but are aware of the allegation. Christopher Velasquez with the Diocese of Las Cruces confirmed that Goni was never part of the Las Cruces Diocese, which was formed in 1982.

Image of Fr. Jesus Goni, St. Genevieve Catholic Church
Image of Fr. Jesus Goni, St. Genevieve Catholic Church

The law firm of Hall & Monagle, LLC is representing the plaintiff. The firm has represented several alleged victims of abuse by Catholic leaders in New Mexico.

Past allegations

This the latest in a string of abuse allegations against southern New Mexico Catholic leaders from the 1950s to 2001 that has come to light. 

The Las Cruces Diocese, in February 2019, released thousands of pages of files involving 28 priests who face credible allegations of sexually abusing children and 13 additional priests who have been the subject of credible allegations while serving in another diocese.

A lawsuit filed in August 2019 alleges a 9-year-old boy was sexually abused multiple times by a nun at Holy Cross Parish and School in Las Cruces in 1978.

In September 2019, two lawsuits were filed, one alleging a pastor of San Miguel Parish in La Mesa sexually abused children in the 1970s and another alleging a pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Roswell sexually abused an 11-year-old girl in 2001.

St. Genevieve Catholic Church, Las Cruces NM. Sun-News File Photo
St. Genevieve Catholic Church, Las Cruces NM. Sun-News File Photo

In May 2020, a lawsuit centered on child molestation allegations involving a priest at two Alamogordo Catholic parishes. The court trial for Fr. David Holley, has been scheduled for July 2022.

Two southern New Mexico Catholic priests were accused in August 2020 of child sexual abuse. Fr. Roderick Nichols and Fr. Damian Gamboa were named as defendants in those cases which occurred in the 1980s and 1990s in Silver City and Tularosa. Trials have been set in the two cases for February 2022 before Third Judicial District Judge Marci Beyer. 

Leah Romero is the trending reporter at the Las Cruces Sun-News and can be reached at 575-418-3442, or @rromero_leah on Twitter.