Santa Fe Archbishop Admits Relationships
Catholicism: Cleric's Apology Gives No Details, but a Church Official Says He Apparently Had Consensual Sex with Three Women

By Larry B. Stammer
Los Angeles Times
March 10, 1993

In another blow to a church already reeling from charges of sexual misconduct by clergy, Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., has acknowledged relationships with at least three women.

Sanchez, who is secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, has not described the nature of the relationships, but the chancellor of the Santa Fe Archdiocese said he has seen videotaped interviews with the women and said it appeared the relationships involved consensual sex with adults.

"He admits that there was a relationship with those women," said the Rev. Ron Wolf, chancellor of the archdiocese. "The exact nature of that relationship . . . he's going to discuss," Wolf told reporters.

Sanchez, who will be 59 next week, had left New Mexico and was on a retreat at an undisclosed location. He issued a statement Tuesday through the archdiocese expressing remorse.

"I realize that these allegations have caused pain for all who now know of them," Sanchez said. "I can and do ask publicly for your forgiveness, as I have of my God. I have always tried never to be the cause of harm or disappointment to anyone and yet today I must say I'm sorry."

His apology followed a report aired Monday night by KOAT, an Albuquerque television station. The station, an ABC affiliate, reported that CBS's "60 Minutes" news show had interviewed the three women and that they described their relationships with Sanchez as sexual. Wolf said it was the "60 Minutes" tape that he had seen. Wolf also said he had been told of allegations by two other women, but that he had not spoken with them.

None of the women were thought to be minors at the time the reported relations took place. The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Sanchez, one of American's most senior Catholic prelates, had sex with the women in the late 1970s to early 1980s, beginning when the women were in their late teens.

Word of the controversy was certain to shake the church's American hierarchy, which has struggled for the last year with heightened concern over allegations of sexual misconduct by priests involving adults and children.

If the latest allegations are true, Sanchez would become the second U.S. Roman Catholic bishop to be caught up in the controversies. In 1990, Archbishop Eugene Marino of Atlanta resigned. His successor later disclosed that Marino had had an affair with Vicki Long, a Roman Catholic lay minister. Long said that she and Marino exchanged marriage vows in a ceremony performed by Marino and that she considered herself to be married to him.

The Rev. Chris Baumann, a spokesman in Washington for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Sanchez could choose to resign, as did Marino. Baumann also said the Vatican could eventually remove Sanchez.

When the bishops met Nov. 16 in Washington they were forced to put the subject of sexual abuse on their agenda after individuals who said they had been abused by priests as children demonstrated outside the hotel where the conference was meeting.

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, and two other bishops met privately with the individuals. At Mahony's urging, the conference adopted a statement that among other things again stated "publicly and more emphatically our care and concern for the victims of priestly misconduct."

Some of the nation's Roman Catholic dioceses have adopted policies governing any clergy sexual misconduct regardless of the victim's age. Others dioceses have limited policies to sexual misconduct involving minors, according to Baumann.

All Roman Catholic priests are bound by vows of celibacy.

Sanchez, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1959 in Rome and was named archbishop by Pope Paul VI in 1974, had risen to a senior position in the American church as secretary to both the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the policy-making body of American bishops, and the United States Catholic Conference, which carries out the bishops' programs.

"Obviously, that says a lot about him and the other bishops' opinions of him," Baumann said in an interview from Washington.

As secretary of the conferences, Sanchez sat on the organizations' most influential committees. "He certainly had a strong voice in the workings of the bishops' conference and the policies that they produce, including policies on sexual misconduct," Baumann said.

In New York, "60 Minutes" spokesman Roy Burnett said the program does not comment on unfinished stories. But Burnett said the program has no plans to air a segment on Sanchez during its regular broadcast this Sunday.


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