Sanchez Slow to Examine Accusations

By Paul Logan and Mike Gallagher
Albuquerque Journal
March 20, 1998

Deposition: Transfers Followed Denials

Former Archbishop Robert Sanchez was slow to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against several priests under his jurisdiction.

In cases where a priest admitted sexual misconduct, the archbishop quickly removed them and ordered them into treatment.

But in cases where the allegations were denied, Sanchez responded by moving the priest to another job. In at least two instances, priests preyed upon more young victims in their new positions.

This was the portrait of the one-time spiritual leader of New Mexico's 275,000 Roman Catholics in a deposition released Thursday.

District Court Judge Susan Conway ordered release of the October 1994 deposition, modifying a protective order she had issued earlier to keep sealed.

Conway deleted sections of Sanchez's four days of testimony that she deemed "not of legitimate public interest" or as intruding on the privacy of individuals such as abuse victims and their families.

Much of Sanchez's testimony in the deposition released Thursday centered on how he dealt with four priests alleged to have committed sexual acts with young boys in the 1970s and early 1980s including:

* The Rev. Clive Lynn, a pastor in Mora and Raton who allegedly had sexual relations with boys in those communities. At last report, Lynn is believed to be in Europe.

* The Rev. Ed Donelan, director of Hacienda de los Muchachos, who continued to serve at northern New Mexico parishes after detailed allegations of sexual abuse were made against him. Donelan died in 1994.

* The Rev. Sabine Griego, who was accused of sexual misconduct in two different parishes. Griego was a confidant of the archbishop and at one point was asked to look into sexual misconduct allegations against another priest.

* The Rev. Robert Smith who was given electroshock therapy for depression and reassigned to parish duties where he was accused of sexual misconduct. Smith, who died in 1987, had been accused of sexual misconduct while still in the seminary.

KOB-TV, the Albuquerque Journal and the Albuquerque Tribune have sought for several years to make the archbishop's depositions public.

About 18 months ago, Conway ordered the release of 700 edited pages of another deposition given by Sanchez in a lawsuit against the archdiocese.

The deposition released Thursday was unsealed after attorneys for KOB-TV filed court documents stating that one of the plaintiffs in the case wanted the testimony opened.

Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the former archbishop fought against release.

Sanchez's depositions, which are sworn testimony that can be used in court, were used for a number of since-settled civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.

The Rev. Clive Lynn

Lynn was transferred from St. Gertrude's Parish in Mora to St. Joseph's in Raton in 1982 after a series of complaints from parishioners, including general allegations that Lynn was having sexual relations with boys in the parish.

Sanchez said none of the allegations arising from Lynn's stay in Mora was investigated and that the allegations were not specific enough to warrant investigation.

At least one petition signed by 200 members of the parish asked for Lynn's transfer.

About eight years after Lynn was transferred out of Mora, the archdiocese settled a claim with a Mora resident who said he was molested by Lynn. Sanchez testified in his deposition that he couldn't recall the exact settlement amount, but said $500,000 was "far too high."

"I never took any action against Father Lynn regarding the concerns about sexual activity in Mora. Perhaps it's just our interpretation of the word 'allegation,' " Sanchez said.

Sanchez testified that he ordered Lynn to contact an Albuquerque psychologist and begin therapy as a result of the Mora complaints, but there was no evidence that he did.

Sanchez said that order was not just in response to what he considered unspecific complaints about sexual improprieties on Lynn's part.

"I would have instructed him to see the doctor for all of the allegations or all the needs that he seemed to have expressed or indicated in his behavior," Sanchez said in 1994.

However, according to the deposition, there was no record that Lynn obeyed Sanchez's order and went to the psychologist.

Lynn arrived in Raton in 1982.

The archbishop received complaints about his behavior there in December 1984 in the form of a letter from state welfare officials.

He received another letter about Lynn from the state Health and Social Services Department on Feb. 28, 1985.

Despite the complaints, Sanchez didn't remove Lynn from the parish until July 1985 and didn't formally suspend his right to act as a priest until April 18, 1986.

But Sanchez said he did take action on the complaints. He assigned the Rev. Johnny Lee Chavez, a Raton native, to visit the community and talk to families who had problems with Lynn. Sanchez also said he had a recollection of having confronted Father Lynn personally about allegations made by families.

Plaintiffs' attorney Stephen Tinkler asked the archbishop why he didn't move more quickly after receiving the Feb. 28 letter.

Tinkler: "Why didn't you send someone up to Raton in a vehicle and get Clive Lynn out of the parish?"

Sanchez: "Sir, that is not my style, nor is it the style of the church in a particular instance of this case. I was dealing with the Health and Social Services."

Tinkler: "What about the kids who were being abused?"

Sanchez: "I had a lot of concern for the kids. The man had been confronted and warned. We do not -- well, we do not have police, you know, in the church. We don't have the same authority as you do in a civil society, but we do have the right to warn and to confront the individual, which I did."

Tinkler pointed out that one letter sent to the archbishop said, "We hope that some action will be taken to stop further molestation of children in our community."

Tinkler then asked, "Did you think that meant it was OK to have the children molested until March as long as you were thinking about it?"

After arguments by attorneys, Sanchez said that "no molestation is good, we all know that, against any child ... I believe I did what I felt was reasonable at the time."

Sanchez said Lynn had been informed by April 30 that he would be removed from Raton and told he needed to undergo testing. On June 6, the archbishop gave Lynn additional time in Raton.

Tinkler: "When you decided to give Father Lynn an additional approximately 30 days to finish the ministry at the parish how did you feel, that, say the 12-year-old boys were going to be protected during that period of time?"

Sanchez: "I don't think I can answer for the boys, sir. The families certainly were concerned, and I was concerned for them. I didn't know the boys personally. I just feel so badly that your question is indicating that I had no sense of feeling for the children or did not care about them "

Tinkler also read from the letter Sanchez wrote to Lynn on June 6:

According to the deposition transcript, Sanchez thanked Lynn for his "ministry to the beautiful people of St. Joseph's Parish ... You have served them well and you are a dedicated priest. As I told you personally, I am most grateful to you for the love and ministry that you have extended to these people. I want only to help your ministry become more effective."

Tinkler: "Those are your words, correct?"

Sanchez: "Yes, sir."

Tinkler: "Is that how you dealt with all the pedophile priests, with that kind of attitude?"

Sanchez: "No sir."

The archbishop said Lynn had support from many in the parish and that he was simply thanking him for his good work -- in spite of the complaints and allegations.

Lynn didn't leave Raton until a new pastor arrived in late June or early July. There was questioning in the deposition over the fact that Sanchez didn't suspend Lynn's right to function as a priest sooner.

The archbishop said that after Lynn left Raton but before his suspension, he was still allowed to celebrate Mass but couldn't perform other duties because he wasn't assigned to a parish.

After leaving Raton, Lynn was in Colorado where he encountered the belief that he had been suspended. Sanchez wrote a letter on Lynn's behalf confirming that he could celebrate Mass "although as I clarified for you, I will not allow them to grant you a formal assignment to any parish as an associate pastor."

The archbishop said he didn't move more quickly to suspend Lynn because it appeared to him that Lynn had been cooperating with his requests, including that he be evaluated.

Sanchez formally notified Lynn on April 18, 1986, that he was suspended.

The Rev. Ed Donelan

The Rev. Ed Donelan was the director of Hacienda de los Muchachos, a boys' ranch-type program run under the authority of the state Health and Social Services Department.

Sanchez said he had made a decision to no longer allow Donelan to be director in 1976 because the state was shutting the program down.

Sanchez said he had a number of other concerns and that Donelan denied the sexual allegations when confronted.

Sanchez said he transferred Donelan from Hacienda de los Muchachos to a Santa Fe parish -- but not because of concerns about Donelan's sexual habits.

Tinkler: "Do you recall (blank) informing you about the incident where he walked in on Father Ed in the skin room at the Boys' Ranch and that Father Ed was naked on the furs lying on his side, embracing one of the boys?"

Sanchez: "A very serious statement. I don't recall it from the conversation or whatever it was with (blank)."

Sanchez testified that the state Health and Social Services Department had responsibility for the ranch.

Sanchez: "I thought there was no need for further investigation (by the archdiocese) in view of the fact that I had just told him that his position as director had ended, I had withdrawn permission for him to serve as director of a ranch operated by the Health and Social Services of the State of New Mexico."

Tinkler: "So you didn't think that there was any further need for investigation since he wasn't going to be at the ranch; is that what you're saying?"

Sanchez: "I myself am not an investigator. I think the state, being the prime operator of the ranch also had the responsibility, more so than I. He had a board of directors to whom he had to answer for its operation as well.

"I was a superior but had little or nothing to do with him and the operation of the ranch. That was supposed to have been operated and run under the authority of the State of New Mexico."

Sanchez transferred Donelan to work at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Santa Fe. Later he was assigned to St. Joseph's Parish in Mosquero and Roy. In 1979 Donelan was transferred to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Taos.

The only complaints during this time, Sanchez testified, had to do with Donelan's blunt manner.

The Rev. Sabine Griego

Sanchez in at least one case dispatched the Rev. Sabine Griego, pastor of Queen of Heaven Parish in Albuquerque from 1979 to 1991, to look into allegations of sexual misconduct by another priest.

A lawsuit filed in 1993 alleged that Sanchez transferred Griego to Albuquerque after allegations that he had molested boys while serving as a priest in Las Vegas, N.M.

Griego resigned at Queen of Heaven after a sexual misconduct allegation was made against him. Sanchez said in his deposition that he talked with Griego after the allegations surfaced in 1991, and Griego "indicated to me" that they were true.

The former archbishop said he never asked Griego if there were other incidents. When asked if he tried to determine whether there were other victims, Sanchez said "it simply didn't enter my mind at that time."

Sanchez said it "was simply my assumption that a center of therapeutic care would be the place where these type of questions and confrontations and issues would be dealt with in detail and would be brought to my attention."

After Griego returned from several months of therapy for pedophilia, he moved in with Sanchez.

Since he didn't hear from therapists as to other events or any other incidents in his life, Sanchez testified that he decided to make Griego a chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital.

Griego ultimately was suspended. He now lives in Albuquerque. He declined comment Thursday night.

Tinkler: "Did you on your own take steps to determine whether there were other victims?"

Sanchez: "No sir, I did not."

Tinkler: "During that period of time, did you ever personally ask Father Griego if there were other victims?"

Sanchez: "I did not."

Tinkler asked the archbishop if Griego ever suffered any penalty at all from the church as a result of this misconduct.

Sanchez: "Well, I think the penalty of resigning from his parish and knowing that he would not ever again be pastor again in the archdiocese, that is a strong penalty."

Sanchez testified that he had no inclination to notify police or the District Attorney's Office.

"That was not my concern. I just did not have that in mind. I felt that they (the family) would -- if they felt it necessary to press charges, you know, certainly that would have been done "

The Rev. Robert Smith

Smith was assigned to Holy Ghost Parish in the South Valley as an assistant to the pastor in 1976.

A former altar boy at the church alleged in a 1993 lawsuit that Smith sexually abused him between 1981 and 1983. He said the relationship ended when Smith was removed from the Holy Ghost.

According to testimony in the deposition, Smith was treated for medical and mental problems.

Tinkler: "Do you recall ever even informing the pastor of Holy Ghost Church that Father Smith was returning from treatment in a St. Louis hospital where he received electroshock treatment for manic depression?"

Sanchez: "I do not recall sharing detailed information with the pastor that way."

Several years later, according to Sanchez, a parishioner met with Sanchez, saying her son had been abused by Smith.

Tinkler: "Did she tell you -- she told you it was sexual abuse, though, didn't she?"

Sanchez: "Yes, this is what she was referring to, but she didn't describe any details.

"I think my confrontation with Father (Smith) and I can't recall the detail, would have been to repeat her words that she had shared to me with him. And to the best of my recollection, he agreed or admitted that he had been indiscreet or had done whatever she was referring to, but she did not give me any details as to what took place, not that I can recall.

"In any event, it was because of that event and the confrontation that I then asked him to go to Jemez Springs."

A lawsuit filed by the former altar boy contends the archdiocese accepted Smith into the archdiocese in 1970 -- before Sanchez became archbishop -- even though he'd been expelled from a seminary after admitting to molesting three children.

It's not clear what happened to Smith after he was treated at the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, then a center for treating pedophile priests, but attorneys for the archdiocese have said he died in 1987 in Arizona after leaving New Mexico.

Sanchez's statement

Here is the statement issued this week by former Archbishop Robert Sanchez after copies of his deposition were made public:

Our local District Court has ruled in favor of releasing to the media the deposition which I gave over three years ago about issues that occurred between 10 and 25 years ago. I am grateful to Her Honor, Judge Susan Conway, for her patient and thorough study of the petition.

Revisiting these sensitive issues will, no doubt, cause pain and disappointment in the hearts of many. I am truly sorry and wish to express my personal regret to those individuals and their families who have suffered. In addition, I also want to apologize for whatever I may have done or failed to do which may have added to your pain.

We all strive to do the best we can in difficult times. Most of the time we do our jobs well. But on some occasions, in spite of our best intentions and efforts, we fall short. Perhaps if I had the benefit of our current understanding of pedophilia I might have made better decisions. In any event, I acknowledge my own weaknesses and shortcomings and ask your understanding and forgiveness. In turn, I promise to continue to pray and to invoke God's blessings on all the people of our beloved New Mexico.

As we count the days until the great Jubilee of the Year 2000, more and more it has become my desire and prayer that forgiveness and reconciliation become part of our daily lives. I hope that those who have been hurt can find a place of peace in forgiveness and reconciliation. This was the spirit of the Hebrews of old in their lives before God. May this same Spirit heal and transform our lives as we approach the Jubilee year. God Bless us all!

Two dark secrets

Robert F. Sanchez resigned as archbishop in early 1993 in the wake of a CBS 60 Minutes piece in which three women alleged Sanchez engaged in sexual misconduct with them and took advantage of them when they were teen-agers.

Sanchez is believed to be living on a farm in Minnesota, where he has worked for a number of years. In the deposition made public in 1996, testimony revealed the former archbishop had held two dark secrets -- growing allegations that priests sexually abused children in the archdiocese and his own affairs with women.

The document also indicated that Sanchez kept the lid on the sex abuse charges as long as he could, fearing they would plunge parishes into scandal and division. And his own sexual relationships were his private shame. Sanchez admitted he had sexual contact with women for at least 18 years before resigning as archbishop, the January 1994 deposition said.

CORRECTION-DATE: March 21, 1998


*The reference to the boys' ranch in a story about former Archbishop Robert Sanchez in Friday's Journal referred to the old Hacienda de los Muchachos and not to Boys Ranch run by The New Mexico Boys and Girls Ranches Inc.


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