Rev. Michael P. O'Brien– Assignment History

Summary of Case: Michael P. O'Brien was a priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, ordained in 1970. After assisting in a San Jose parish for two years he pastored a series of parishes in Moriarty, Estancia, Ranchos de Taos, Mora, Las Vegas and Questa, New Mexico. The parishes were affiliated with many mission churches in the state. In 1973 O'Brien established 'Pilgrimages for Vocations' through which he would lead youth on week-long walks across northern New Mexico, staying at churches along the way. O'Brien died at the age of 48 in 1993, possibly of AIDS.

In 2012 a man told the archdiocese that O'Brien had sexually abused him many times during the 1980s, when the man was a ten- or eleven-year-old altar boy at St. Anthony's in Questa. He filed suit in April 2013; within several weeks three more men filed suit, also claiming O'Brien sexually abused them as boys. In May 2013, there were lawsuits from an additional five alleged O'Brien victims and, as of December 2015 there were seventeen, at least nine of which had been settled. O'Brien's modus operandi was said to have been to groom boys with massages and sometimes foot and leg washing, leading to genital washing, fondling and then rape. He reportedly would also ply boys with alcohol and pornography. His victims were allegedly as young as age eight and as old as age seventeen. The abuse is said to have occurred throughout his priesthood, at his assigned parishes and during pilgrimages.

Ordained: 1970
Died: January 14, 1993


Start Stop Assignments Town/Allegations State Position Notes


Archiocese of Santa Fe

Archbishop was James Peter Davis (1964-1974).

1972 San Jose Albuquerque NM 2/2, 2/4



1972 1973 Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Moriarty NM 1/1  
1973 1974 SS. Peter and Paul Estancia NM 1/1 In 1973 O'Brien established the 'Pilgrimage for Vocations.' during which he would lead youth on a week-long walks across northern New Mexico, staying at churches along the way. Per its website in July 2017: "The Pilgrimage for Vocations started in 1973 with the main goal being prayer and sacrifice for vocations especially to the priesthood and religious life. The pilgrimage has continued to take place during the first week in June each year.... ."
1973 1974   Moriarty, Tajique, Willard NM   These were missions of SS. Peter and Paul in Estancia.


Davis was succeeded as Santa Fe archbishop by Robert Fortune Sanchez (1974-1993).

1976 Catholic Church of Estancia Valley Estancia NM 1/1  
1974 1976   Estancia, Moriarty, Tajique, Willard NM   These were missions of Catholic Church of Estancia Valley in Estancia.
1976 1981 St. Francis

Ranchos de Taos

O'Brien was accused in a lawsuit filed in late April 2013 of sexually abusing a boy over a four-year period, beginning when the boy was age eight, and O'Brien was assigned to St. Francis.

In May 2013 five men accused O'Brien in lawsuits of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers and he was assigned to St. Francis. Among these accusers, O'Brien's modus operandi allegedly included massages and plying them with alcohol, leading to rape. Incidents were said to have occurred in the parish rectory, on pilgrimages and on trips. One of them said O'Brien tried to rape him at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos.

NM 1/1  
1976 1981   Talpa, Llano Quemado, Codillera (1976-1980), Los Cordovas (1980-1981) NM   These were missions of St. Francis in Ranchos de Taos.
1970s or 1980s   St. Anthony


In a May 2013 lawsuit a man claimed he was sexually abused as a teen by O'Brien in Penasco.

NM   It is unclear if O'Brien was assigned to this parish, or if he was visiting. News reports place him here sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.
1981 1984 St. Gertrude Mora NM 1/1  
1981 1984   Le Doux, Lucero, Santiago-Talco, Ojo Feliz, Buenavista, Golondrinas, Rainsville, Chacon, Holman, Cleveland, Guadalupita, Monte Aplanado, Turquillo (1982-1983).     These were missions of St. Gertrude in Mora.
1984 1986 Our Lady of Sorrows

Las Vegas

In late April 2013 O'Brien was accused in a lawsuit of molesting a boy for years, beginning in 1985 when the boy was age fifteen. The abuse allegedly occurred at Our Lady of Sorrows and during trips to the Grand Canyon and such. O'Brien was said to have used massage oil he told the boy was blessed by the pope.

NM 1/2, 1/1  
1984 1986   Sapello, Trujillo, Rociada Arriba, Rociada Abajo, Gallinas (1984-1986); San Geronimo, El Llanom Los Ojitos Frios, Hot Springs, Ojo del Medio, Tecolote, San Ignacio, Los Alamos, El Porvenir, Maes, San Agustin, San Rafael, La Manga, Aguilar, Canoncito (1984-1985); Variadero (1985-1986) NM   These were missions of Our Lady of Sorrows in Las Vegas, NM.
1985 1986   Llanito, Montezuma, Porvenir, San Ignacio, Tecolate NM   These were stations of Our Lady of Sorrows in Las Vegas, NM.
1986 1989 St. Anthony's


A man told the archdiocese in 2012 that O'Brien sexually abused him many times during a year and a half period in the 1980s, when the man was a ten- or eleven- year-old St. Anthony's altar boy. O'Brien allegedly groomed the boy with "massage time," and the abuse eventually included penetration. The man filed suit in April 2013, alleging, in part, that he was told the archdiocese would pay for counseling if he did not contact a lawyer or bring a claim.

In late April 2013 another man filed suit, alleging repeated sexual abuse as a boy by O'Brien, beginning when the man was an eleven-year-old altar boy at St. Anthony's in the mid-1980s. The abuse was said to have started with massages, then feet washing, leg washing, genital washing, fondling and, later, rape. O'Brien was also said to have shown the boy with gay porn and given him alcohol.

NM 1/1




1986 1989   Cerro, Red River, Costilla, Amalia NM   These were missions of St. Anthony's in Questa, NM.
1989 1991 Bethany on the Rio Grande Albuquerque NM 1/1 Director This was a house of prayer for priests.
1991 1992 Absent on Leave        
1992 1993        

O'Brien is not indexed in the 1993 Directory. He died January 14, 1993, at age 48. There were rumors that he had had AIDS.

By December 2015 O'Brien was the subject of seventeen lawsuits in which he was named as a perpetrator of sexual abuse against boys in New Mexico. At least nine of the lawsuits had been settled.

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Source: Official Catholic Directory (Kenedy & Sons, 1971-2014).

New Lawsuit Alleges 1980s Questa Priest Was Pedophile, By Mark Oswald, Albuquerque Journal, April 2, 2013 
Questa Man Claims Sexual Abuse, Sues Archdiocese of Santa Fe, KOB, April 2, 2013
 Archdiocese Named in Sex-abuse Lawsuit, KRQE, April 2, 2013
 Lawsuit Alleges Sex Abuse by Priest in Questa, By Tom Sharpe, New Mexican, April 2, 2013
 Priest Accused of Abuse in 1980s, Albuquerque Journal, April , 2013
 Questa Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse, KOAT, April 3, 2013
 Attorney: Accused Priest May Have Had AIDS, KOAT, April 11, 2013
 More Church Sex Abuse Victims Surface, KOB, April 30, 2013
 3 More Say Priest Molested Them3 More Say Priest Molested Them, By T.S. Last, Albuquerque Journal, May 1, 2013
 NM- Victims Blast New Mexico Catholic Officials on Abuse, SNAP Statement, May 1, 2013
 Six More Men Claim Sex Abuse at Hands of Northern New Mexico Priest, By Jackie Jadmak, Albuquerque Journal, May 8, 2013
 Six More Men File Lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, KOB, May 8, 2013
 Archdiocese Incorporates Most Parishes As Nonprofits, By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal, January 6, 2014
 Several priests accused of abuse sent to facility in Jemez Springs, By Olivier Uyttebrouck, Albuquerque Journal December 6, 2015

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates O'Brien's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with the allegations against him, as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegations we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on July 5, 2017.


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