Woman Says Nuns, Priest Abused Her

St. Petersburg Times (Reuters)
August 13, 1994

An Albuquerque woman claims she was bathed in holy water and then sexually abused by nuns and a priest while at an orphanage in New Mexico nearly 30 years ago, her lawyer said.

The lawsuit filed by "Jane Doe" Wednesday in state district court seeks unspecified damages from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the Poor Sisters of St. Francis Seraph of the Perpetual Adoration and former Archbishop Robert Sanchez.

The woman, who filed under a fictitious name "to prevent further embarrassment and humiliation," claims that around 1967 she and her sister were "taken by the nuns into a room where the priests performed 'cleansing rituals' on them."

"These rituals consisted of bathing plaintiff in holy water," the lawsuit said, adding that the nuns and now-deceased Monsignor Clarence Schoeppner would then "perform non-consensual sexual acts and physical abuse on plaintiff."

Karen Kennedy, attorney for the archdiocese, said the religious order of nuns contacted in Colorado was shocked at the allegations and said, "They do not believe that anything like that ever occurred at their institution.

"And we have learned nothing in our investigation that would support those types of allegations."

The religious order ran St. Anthony's Boys School in Albuquerque, the orphanage where the alleged abuse occurred, until it closed in 1971.

Sanchez resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct after 19 years as archbishop, a position he did not hold when the offenses allegedly took place.

The archbishop at the time, James P. Davis, and the priest accused of sexual abuse, Schoeppner, are both dead.

Sanchez is named "because we feel there was a cover-up," said Merit Bennett, an attorney for the woman. "They had knowledge. They knew at the time this type of activity was going on and didn't do anything to stop it.

"They knew they had a pedophile in their midst. They kept it quiet for years," he said. "We feel strongly they knew about it or should have known about it."


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