Sanchez Wrote of Abuse in '90 Memo

By Bruce Daniels
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
September 21, 1996

Says He Believed Priest's Denial

Former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez "confronted" the Rev. Vincent Lipinski in early 1990 about anonymous sexual-misconduct allegations concerning an Albuquerque youth, according to Sanchez's own handwritten memo of the meeting.

But according to the four-page memo and deposition testimony on file in a just-settled civil suit against Lipinski and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Sanchez believed Lipinski's denials and never followed up the investigation.

A little more than two years later, Lipinski was forced to resign as pastor of St. Anthony's Church in Questa. He pleaded guilty to two sex-abuse counts after getting a 14-year-old boy from his parish drunk and forcing him to submit to oral sex.

The memo -- according to testimony in the court record -- is one of two reports of alleged sexual abuse by priests that Sanchez committed to writing in his 19 years as archbishop.

The other, he told plaintiffs' lawyers at a March 25, 1996, deposition, involved "two women who came to speak to me about their adult son and a priest." The deposition didn't make the women's relationships to the man clear.

The deposition is one of three taken in a civil lawsuit filed by lawyers Leon Taylor and Mel B. O'Reilly on behalf of the Questa boy's parents. The suit was settled this week.

A deposition of Sanchez in another priest sex-abuse case, long sought by the media over church objections, was released this week.

Sanchez's memo on the earlier Lipinski allegations was written after Feb. 2, 1990, but the former archbishop couldn't pinpoint the date.

It summarizes his meeting on Jan. 29, 1990, with Lipinski and the Rev. Richard Olona, now chancellor of the archdiocese and Lipinski's former vocation director.

The subject was an allegation that Lipinski got a young volunteer worker drunk and sexually molested him while serving at Albuquerque's Our Lady of Fatima Church.

It was, according to the memo, the second time the allegation had surfaced.

In the early summer of 1989, Sanchez wrote, the Rev. Jerome Martinez passed on an allegation that Lipinski had gotten "a volunteer for youth ministry" drunk and the young man "awoke in the morning in a compromising situation (in bed with the priest at the rectory)."

But, Sanchez wrote, "since the allegation was very informal and not in writing," he directed Martinez to question Lipinski in private.

"Because of the informality of the allegation the archbishop did not deem it necessary to go further," said Sanchez, writing of himself.

At the Jan. 29 meeting, held after the allegation resurfaced, Lipinski denied any knowledge of the alleged incident, denied he knew the youth, and said the church never even had a youth director. And, Lipinski told Sanchez and Olona, "I would never compromise my priesthood or the reputation of the church" and "I only go out with other priests."

Sanchez said he was "direct with (Lipinski) and informed him of the seriousness of the allegation and the possibility of civil action," also warning Lipinski he "might ultimately be asked to take a polygraph test."

Lipinski "understood, but never changed his reply," Sanchez said.

According to the memo, Lipinski "was calm, cooperative and patient" during the one-hour meeting.

"I was impressed with his manner and tended to believe his statements," wrote Sanchez, who told Lipinski he would report the conversation to "our attorney" and to the Rev. Ric Barela, to whom the allegation was also reported.

Four days later, Lipinski called Sanchez, who told him of his conversations with the attorney and Barela.

"He was pleased," Sanchez wrote.

Two years later, on Oct. 2, 1992, Lipinski gave the Questa boy two glasses of Jack Daniel's to drink and, while the boy was confused and drunk, performed oral sex on him, according to the civil complaint.

The boy went home and told his parents, who reported Lipinski to police.

Lipinski pleaded guilty in June 1993 to third-degree criminal sexual penetration and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for which he was sentenced in August 1993 to five years of supervised probation.

Attorney Clifford M. McIntyre asked Sanchez at the deposition why he never followed up on the earlier Lipinski allegations.

"After Father Lipinski denied these facts in my presence, I called the priest back again and told him this is what Father Lipinski had said, please share this with whomever has called you so that the information might be given to them," Sanchez said, according to the deposition transcript.

"If they care to do more, they're going to have to come in or at least provide some details," Sanchez said in the deposition.

McIntyre asked Sanchez, if the Albuquerque case had been more fully investigated, would the Questa incident have occurred.

Sanchez said, "You know, we can all go back and say I wish I had done this better or that better. But I don't know. I don't know what causes actions of this nature to happen. I wish it had never happened to begin with; I can assure you of that."


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