Religious brother accused of sexual abuse visited school

By Claire Taylorctaylor
September 08, 2014

A retired Christian Brother accused of molesting boys at a Catholic school in El Paso, Texas, lives in Lafayette but no longer visits a Lafayette school campus on weekends because he is suffering from cancer, a spokesman for the order said Monday.

"At the risk of sounding cynical, hundreds of times over the last quarter-century we've heard Catholic officials make similar claims," David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told The Daily Advertiser on Monday.

Catholic officials have said accused clergy are deceased when they aren't or have Alzheimer's when they don't, he said.

"Even if it's true, molesters don't need to be physically healthy to hurt kids," Clohessy said. "We know of very elderly priests in wheelchairs that have molested kids."

Brother Samuel "Sammy" Martinez, 78, of the Brothers of Christian Schools, was accused of sexually abusing at least three boys when he was principal of Cathedral High School in El Paso between 1976 and 1985, according to El Paso Times stories published in January and March 2012.

The El Paso Catholic Diocese agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a lawsuit by two of Martinez's alleged victims, the newspaper reported. One of the complaints alleged Martinez also sexually abused a boy in 1971 when he was principal of a school in New Orleans.

For about the past five years, Martinez has lived in Lafayette and visited the campus of John Paul the Great Academy on weekends, spending the night. He currently resides at the Rosewood Retirement and Assistance Community in Lafayette and is in the final stages of cancer, according to Brother David Sinitiere, a spokesman for the order's New Orleans-Santa Fe District.

On weekends Martinez would be picked up by the Brothers to spend time in the Holy Family Community on the campus of the Academy, a pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school on Carmel Drive in Lafayette, to participate in religious exercises with other Brothers, Sinitiere said in an e-mail. He would be returned to the retirement home on Sunday afternoon, he said.

Because of his deteriorating health, Martinez no longer visits the Holy Family Community on weekends, he said.

"The public and parents of John Paul the Great Academy can be certain Brother Sammy Martinez will never have any contact with any minors attending John Paul the Great Academy" because of his ill health, Sinitiere said.

"Even if Martinez is very ill, his supervisors must be held responsible for putting kids in harm's way, even if they may not be in harm's way right now," Clohessy said. "Even if Martinez dies tomorrow, the question remains: Why did Catholic officials — apparently a number of them — take such needless and irresponsible risks with the safety of children?"

Sinitiere said when Martinez visited the campus on weekends no minors were present.

But events calendars posted on the school's website suggest that minors occasionally may have been on campus for extracurricular events on weekends. It is unknown if Martinez was present on those days.

Headmaster Peter Fletcher did not respond to requests for comment.

Martinez wasn't allowed to live with fellow Brothers in the Holy Family Community because of the accusations. He was under a safety plan that limits "unsupervised access to minors," which is required if a religious order or bishop believes a credible accusation has been made, Sinitiere said.

According to a published report, Sinitiere said Martinez was always in the company of an adult while visiting the school campus.

"No person, however well-intentioned or diligent, can effectively supervise another person around the clock, especially a cunning, wily child predator," Clohessy said.

Martinez may be moved to another community without a school, Sinitiere said. The timeline for such a move depends on his health, he said.


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