Report Suggests Sanchez Abused Teens
Archbishop: Information May Keep Clergyman Who Served Hispanics out of Alaska

By Nicole Tsong
Anchorage Daily News [Anchorage AK]
February 18, 2004

An archbishop who resigned amid scandal in Santa Fe, N.M., may not be allowed to return to Anchorage, where he has served the Hispanic community on a limited basis for the last six years, church officials said Tuesday.

Archbishop Robert Sanchez resigned his post in New Mexico in 1993 after his sexual relationships with women became public. Church officials in Anchorage said they have learned it's possible the misconduct may also have involved teenagers.

Sanchez has celebrated Mass with the Hispanic community during Lent and Advent at Holy Family Cathedral and Our Lady of Guadalupe. But after his name was revealed in an archdiocese report Friday on abusive priests, church officials said they learned through Albuquerque, N.M., newspaper accounts that he may have been sexually involved with teenage girls, said chancellor Sister Charlotte Davenport.

"We were always under the impression that it was adult women," she said. "If there were teens involved, then the charter comes into effect."

The charter was mandated by American bishops in Dallas in 2002 after the sexual abuse scandal roiled the Catholic Church. It required dioceses to permanently remove priests after a single act of sexual abuse of a minor.

Sanchez was supposed to return for Lent next week, but Archbishop Roger Schwietz is consulting with the pope's representative in Washington, D.C., about the allegations and whether he should be allowed to minister on even a limited basis, Davenport said. A decision should be made by Monday at the latest, she said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said the Anchorage archdiocese should be declared in violation of the charter because it allowed Sanchez to minister here.

David Clohessy, SNAP's national director, said in a statement Monday, "The simple truth is that Sanchez abused his power and admitted sexually exploiting young, vulnerable, trusting, devout teens."

Retired Archbishop Francis Hurley was friends with Sanchez, said the Very Rev. Donald Bramble, vicar general. After Sanchez resigned in Santa Fe, Hurley asked a representative of the pope to allow him to serve in Anchorage on a limited basis because of the need here for Spanish speaking priests, Bramble said.

The archdiocese has to request permission from the pope's representative for each of Sanchez's visits. He stays with Schwietz while in Anchorage and is closely watched, Bramble said. Sanchez now lives in Minnesota and is the chaplain for a community of nuns, he said.

Daily News reporter Nicole Tsong can be reached at or 257-4450.


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