Archdiocese Settles Case out of Court

Associated Press, carried in Roswell Daily Record
July 1, 1993

Albuquerque — Three sisters who accused a Roman Catholic priest of sexually abusing them when they were children have agreed to a settlement with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The amount of the out-of-court settlement was not disclosed. The action was announced in a news release Wednesday by the archdiocese and an attorney for the women.

Archdiocese officials said they removed the Rev. Lionel Augustine Abeywickrema as an assistant pastor at Queen of Heaven parish in Albuquerque earlier this year in response to the allegations.

The church also prohibited him from engaging in any public ministry.

"The only thing he can do is celebrate Mass privately," said the Rev. Ron Wolf, chancellor for the archdiocese. "He is not to wear a Roman collar, he is not to participate in any public ministry. He is essentially retired."

The women allege Abeywickrema sexually abused them over a period of several years, beginning in the mid-1960s when the priest was assigned to St. Bernadette's parish in Albuquerque.

The sisters ranged in age from 6 to 14 when the alleged abuse began.

The women alleged the priest's actions ranged from improper touching to sodomy and that on one occasion he went on to celebrate Mass immediately after engaging in the abuse.

They also said he bought them gifts and-or threatened them in an effort to keep the actions secret.

The priest, a native of Sri Lanka, has served at a number of New Mexico parishes, the archdiocese said. He was at St. Bernadette's in the 1960s, Our Lady of Fatima in Albuquerque in the 1970s and Sacred Heart Church in Albuquerque in the early 1980s.


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