Suit Claims Abuse by Las Cruces Priests

El Paso Times
April 18, 2010

A former El Paso man alleges in a lawsuit that he was sexually abused as a boy by two Catholic priests in Las Cruces.

The priests, the Rev. Manuel Perez Maramba and the Rev. Rosario Lopez, were from the Philippines, and worked in the Catholic Diocese of El Paso at St. Genevieve's Church in Las Cruces.

Clark Harmonson, lawyer for the plaintiff identified only as "John Doe," said this is the fourth lawsuit his firm has brought against Perez Maramba, a brilliant musician who attended Johns Hopkins and Yale universities. The previous three complaints against him were settled.

The Rev. John Stowe, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese El Paso, said the diocese does not comment on pending litigation.

The Gilstrap and Harmonson law firm filed the lawsuit Tuesday in New Mexico.

According to court records, Lopez allegedly fondled and groped the plaintiff at the church, then left to return to the Philippines. After that, Perez Maramba came to the diocese.

"Beginning on or about 1976, following Father Maramba's arrival at St. Genevieve parish, John Doe was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Father Maramba," court records said.

Harmonson said the plaintiff was an altar boy when the sexual assaults took place. Perez Maramba also was accused of sexually abusing three other boys at St. Genevieve's before he left the diocese in 1977.

"He has struggled with drugs and alcohol, beginning in his adolescence and continuing throughout his life," the lawsuit alleges. "His relationship with women and his children had been adversely affected as a result of his abuse. He has suffered emotional agony his entire life as a result of the abuse."

Church officials said Lopez was an elderly priest when he was with the El Paso diocese. Harmonson said that his whereabouts in the Philippines is unknown, and that Perez Maramba is working as a priest at a diocese based in Manila.

The plaintiff has asked for a jury trial and to be compensated for damages.

Recently, the Vatican has come under fire from advocacy groups such as Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests that claim Roman Catholic leaders did little to nothing to protect church members from abusive priests.

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.