5 More Sue Archdiocese of Santa Fe over Allegations of Sexual Abuse from Decades Ago
By Russell Contreras
November 18, 2014
Five more victims are suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe over allegations that priests sexual abused them as young children and teens — the latest in a growing list of accusers who say the church did little to stop widespread abuse in New Mexico decades ago.
According to the lawsuits filed last week in state District Court in Albuquerque, the victims were abused by priests in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico towns and villages in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
One victim said at 16 years old he was abused by the late Rev. Michael O'Brien after going to the priest to discuss behavior issues, according to court documents. The victim alleged that O'Brien abused him repeatedly in 1984 at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and threatened him to remain silent.
Ten other victims have accused O'Brien, who served at a number of parishes from 1977 to 1989, of having sex with them when they served as his altar boys.
Court documents said another victim, a female, was abused by the late Rev. Walter Cassidy in the late 1960s on a northwest Albuquerque church bus when she was 8 to 10 years old.
A previous lawsuit accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old altar boy 50-80 times, at the same Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Albuquerque.
The lawsuits seek an unspecified amount in damages.
Brad Hall, an Albuquerque lawyer who is representing the more than two dozen plaintiffs who are suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, said the new lawsuits showed that church authorities let abusive priests operation among children despite knowing their troubled past.
"Sadly, it is becoming clear the archdiocese transferred pedophile priests around from parish to parish for decades, while victims and their families completely trusted the church and these priest," Hall said.
Celine Radigan, an Archdiocese of Santa Fe spokeswoman, said she was looking into the lawsuits.
Sex abuse scandals by priests exploded in New Mexico in the early 1990s.
Former Santa Fe Archbishop Robert Sanchez resigned in 1993 after three women accused him of being sexually involved with them in the 1970s and early 1980s when they were teenagers.
Some critics complained that he didn't do enough to discipline priests who were accused of sexual misconduct.
At the time of Sanchez's resignation, more than a dozen lawsuits were pending against the archdiocese alleging priest sexual abuse.