Suit Alleges Sex Abuse by Priest New Mexico Mother Says Church Failed to Act

Journal Star
August 25, 1993

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A lawsuit filed here accuses an Illinois Roman Catholic priest of sexually abusing children while working in New Mexico more than 20 years ago and contends the church failed to prevent the abuse.

The lawsuit filed last Friday accuses the Rev. Ron Roth , 56, of sexually abusing three boys and a girl while he was pastor at churches in Tucumcari and Albuquerque between 1968 and 1972. Roth was unavailable indefinitely for comment, said Paul Funfsinn, executive director of Heart of Mercy Ministries in LaSalle, which Roth founded as Ron Roth Ministries in 1984. The name was changed earlier this year, Funfsinn said Tuesday.

The Santa Fe archdiocese has refused comment.

Roth worked as a priest in Illinois from 1966 to 1968 and returned from New Mexico in 1972. From 1972 to 1991 he worked in many churches in the Peoria Diocese, diocesan spokesman Steve Mamanella said Tuesday.

Roth left diocesan work in 1991 to devote his time to his independent ministry, Funfsinn said.

Roth has, in recent years, celebrated charismatic-oriented Masses at several central Illinois churches and conducted a variety of workshops on the healing ministry. He was ordained at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria in 1966, is a graduate of Illinois State University and completed seminary studies at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa.

The Peoria Diocese found out about the New Mexico accusations on March 18 and began an evaluation, Mamanella said. On April 7, Bishop John J. Myers removed Roth from his priestly duties, Mamanella said. That was reiterated in another letter to Roth on July 23, sent after he appeared on "The Joan Rivers Show" to discuss charismatic renewal.

"Once he has been removed from priestly duties, he should no longer associate himself with this ministry," Mamanella said.

"We have followed our policy and laid down our mandate to him. We have no other recourse we can take without his cooperation," Mamanella said. "We, in the strongest possible words, have asked for his cooperation."

The lawsuit contends Elmira Martinez, the mother of one of the alleged victims, told officials at the Archdiocese of Santa Fe that Roth abused her son, but the church failed to prevent the abuse of the other children.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

The attorney who filed the lawsuit, S. Austin Johnson of Albuquerque, said Monday the plaintiffs have been pursuing settlement negotiations with the Catholic church, but that Roth has not been interested.

Funfsinn said Roth is talking to the plaintiffs' lawyer.

Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit are Michael Dominguez of Bernalillo County, Eddie Dominguez and Gloria Madrid of Quay County, all alleged victims, and Martinez, whose son died in 1990


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