Lawsuit Alleging Abuse by Ex-st. Genevieve's Priest Settled

By Ashley Meeks
April 2, 2010

Father Manuel Perez Maramba

LAS CRUCES - A third lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a St. Genevieve priest in the 1970s was settled Thursday.

Father Manuel Perez Maramba, also known as "Dom Benildo," was accused of sexually abusing the plaintiff when he was 6 years old, according to a news release from the El Paso law offices of Gilstrap & Harmonson, which represented the alleged victim and his family.

Thursday's is the third settlement reached with the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, which used to have jurisdiction over St. Genevieve, and others stemming from allegations of sexual abuse by the same priest. The case was preparing to go to trial sometime after next week.

Maramba, a Filipino priest, served at the Las Cruces parish from 1976-1977 and at the Newman Center in Silver City. He was recalled to the Philippines in 1977 by his abbey. He still serves as a Benedictine Monk of the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat in that country.

A 2007 lawsuit, also settled, alleged Maramba sexually abused an altar boy four times in 1976 and 1977. The alleged victim's parents had encouraged their son to spend time with Maramba because they wanted him to become a priest, the suit stated. When the boy's parents learned of the alleged misconduct, they informed the diocese, but officials took no action, court documents state.

Maramba was also alleged to have repeatedly molested an 11-year-old boy during his time at St. Genevieve, according to a 2004 article about another settled lawsuit by the Santa Fe Reporter.

"Typical of pedophile priests, he took boys camping and was a boys' group leader," Tom Gilstrap Jr. told the newspaper in 2004. "We don't know whether it was discovered by the diocese. We think the move back to the Philippines was as a result of these types of incidents."

Between 1952 and 2004, the Diocese of El Paso had 56 sexual abuse allegations against it and spent more than $4 million to pay costs associated to the lawsuits, according to a 2004 report by KVIA-TV.

"Even one child being molested is much too much ... It's a sad day for the church," Bishop Armando X. Ochoa told the TV station.

The terms of Thursday's settlement are not being publicly discussed, according to the release. Attorney S. Clark Harmonson did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Ashley Meeks can be reached at; (575) 541-5462


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