A Dangerous Shuffle Game
By Chris Ramirez
November 17, 2017
By now, we know a lot about the priest abuse scandal that swept across the country. There are already countless news stories, big-budget motion pictures and thousands of legal settlements. So the question is, why keep fighting the Catholic Church for more information? Why does it still matter today?
In a three-part series we are calling Shattered Faith, we lay out why all this still matters. There are former priests walking the streets of New Mexico today who are responsible for victimizing dozens upon dozens of children. They have never been criminally charged and they have never faced prison time. In the time span of a few decades, clergymen preyed on more than a hundred children. Now as adults, their mental health has suffered. In fact, many mental health professionals believe the sheer number of adults dealing with childhood sexual trauma has put New Mexico into a mental health crisis.
KOB started fighting for transparency in 1998. We took the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to court to unseal a confidential deposition between lawyers and former Archbishop Robert Sanchez. It was the first reporting done in New Mexico that revealed how much church administrators knew about the abuse and when.
In early 2017, KOB asked Brad Hall and Levi Monagle, attorneys currently representing dozens of abuse victims, for files detailing decades’ worth of sexual abuse at the hands of New Mexico priests. Because the documents were sealed under protective order, KOB had to take the Archdiocese to court to make the argument to a judge that the documents should be in public purview. In October, Judge Alan Mallot ruled that the redacted files of three credibly accused priests, Sabine Griego, Jason Sigler and Arthur Perrault should be made public. The disclosure of documents detailing priest pedophilia that KOB fought for and won is the largest in New Mexico history.
There are 31 boys and one girl who allege that Sabine Griego raped or molested them. We met with one of them in northern New Mexico town.
“The very first time I met with him, he offered me wine,” one of Griego’s survivor’s said. “Now that I'm older, I believe he drugged me at that time because I went from having a glass of wine with him to waking up with my pants and my underwear around my ankles and he was performing oral sex on me.”
He was uncomfortable revealing his identity but was comfortable to admit it has taken years’ worth of counseling to talk about the childhood sexual trauma he endured.
“It became very apparent that he was interested in a sexual relationship with me. No matter what we talked about, the conversation always went that way. He started to supply me with alcohol. He would provide drugs to me as well, every time we had any kind of interaction, I would be intoxicated.”
The rapes went on for years until the boy graduated from high school and moved away. What’s hard to grasp today, the abuse that happened in the early 1980s could have and should have been prevented.
“Do you believe had the church addressed these issues with Griego early in his priesthood, you would have been spared as a victim?” Chris Ramirez asked.
“Most definitely. I would have never met him,” Griego’s survivor’s said.
The newly unsealed documents reveal Griego sexually abused his first known victim while in seminary. The next seven victims were abused while Griego pastored his first parish at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Las Vegas, N.M.
By the end of 1969, the Church needed to Griego out of Las Vegas and transferred him to Our Lady of Annunciation in Albuquerque. His transfer notice states, he “lacked mature judgement” but noted the “transfer is in no sense punitive.”
While a priest in Albuquerque, Griego’s trail of victims multiplied and his sexual appetite grew. Church files indicate he provided boys with pot, encouraged them to masturbate and provided them with pornography.
By 1981, he was so emboldened, other priests reported that Griego flaunted teenaged boys. One boy told attorneys years after his abuse, that is was clear he was Griego’s “boy toy” during a lunch with Archbishop Robert Sanchez.
The documents show by 1979, people had complained to the archbishop about Sabine Griego. By then, he had amassed 20 victims. With all that in mind, unbelievably, the archbishop put Griego in charge of a boys camp and promoted him to head the church’s personnel board; the very board that takes complaints about problem priests. It wouldn’t be until 1992 until Griego was removed from a parish. By then, the total number of known victims included one girl and 31 boys.
In 2005, the next Archbishop Michael Sheehan urged the Vatican to laicize Griego, stating “the damage to the people of God of the Archdiocese caused by the accused is profound."
Griego lives in Las Vegas where a school bus route runs in front of his home and small children live next door.
We found Griego outside of his home, but Griego refused to answer any questions and yelled at our photojournalist to turn off the camera. When asked if Griego had anything to say to his accusers, his only reply was “no.”
It was hard not to notice how well Griego appeared to be living, considering so many of his victims continue to live in their own personal hell. That very notion bothers Diana Abyeta. Abeyta is also a survivor of clergy abuse and an advocate for others.
“It’s criminal,” Abeyta said. “I feel Griego has been free all these years to do as he pleases, to come and go as he pleases. I believe had if I molested a child or you for that matter, we would have been behind bars. There would be no question. We would be arrested and face what we did. He hasn't had that. He is loose on the streets of Las Vegas.”
Luna Community College in Las Vegas confirmed that Griego spent years teaching undergraduate courses.
“Community colleges have students who are concurrently enrolled from high school,” Abeyta pointed out. “He's had access to these kids.”
The current Archbishop John Wester declined an interview with KOB. We wanted to know what protections are in place to prevent more children from being harmed.
The next chapter of the series Shattered Faith airs Sunday after the NFL game.