Priest Resigns Post after Lawsuit Filed

By Bruce Daniels
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
March 24, 1995

The Rev. John C. Rodriguez has resigned as pastor at Albuquerque's Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in connection with a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct with an adult male 20 years ago.

Rodriguez, 60, had been pastor of the Northeast Albuquerque church since June 1992.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan said in a letter to Queen of Heaven parishioners read at Masses last Sunday that Rodriguez was a recovering alcoholic who had maintained his sobriety for the past 15 years — and that the allegation dated from before the time Rodriguez sought alcoholism treatment.

Plaintiff Frank Ortiz claimed in a lawsuit filed in state District Court in Albuquerque on March 8 that "in or about 1974" Rodriguez got him drunk and sexually attacked him on a weekend "retreat" at a cabin owned by the archdiocese near Gallina.

At the time, Ortiz said, he was a 19-year-old theology student at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Santa Fe training to become a Franciscan brother.

Ortiz claimed in the suit that he'd expected other students to be present but found himself alone with Rodriguez, who got him drunk and sexually attacked him during the night.

Although "intoxicated and disoriented," Ortiz said he was able to resist the attack, which he said lasted about one-half hour.

But in his suit — which claims unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Rodriguez and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe — Ortiz said he suffered extreme emotional and psychological injury, lost his religious faith and has been unable to maintain "meaningful, intimate and positive" family or social relationships as a result of the attack.

It is only within the past three years, Ortiz said, that he has become conscious of the alleged events, realized their import, associated them with his emotional injuries and begun treatment for them.

He is represented by Albuquerque attorneys Mary Dougherty and David L. Plotsky.

Sheehan, in his letter to the Queen of Heaven parish, said Rodriguez " helped many of you through his dedicated priestly ministry." He said Rodriguez offered to resign because of the lawsuit and to spare the parish " future pain."

The allegation was brought before the Archdiocese of Santa Fe's permanent review board, which recommended Sheehan accept the resignation, church officials said in a news release.

Sheehan said he accepted the resignation, which was effective immediately.

Rodriguez hasn't been suspended as a priest and "still has full priestly faculties," meaning he is permitted, among other things, to celebrate Mass, the news release said.

Rodriguez was ordained a priest in May 1960 by then-Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne.


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