Mother of Alleged Victims Forgives Sanchez

By Paul Logan
Albuquerque Journal
March 21, 1998

A woman whose sons allegedly were abused by a parish priest said Friday that she has forgiven former Archbishop Robert Sanchez for not acting more forcefully to stop clergy from preying on young boys.

Marlene Debrey-Nowak said that perhaps Sanchez has become a scapegoat for the entire pedophile priest scandal, and that many Catholics should share the blame.

Debrey-Nowak said she knew priests who kept silent even though they had knowledge of what their abusive colleagues were doing. And she knew Catholic adults who blamed children, not bad priests, for the wrongdoing.

Debrey-Nowak said she is "not as angry as I was before" after reading an account of Sanchez's testimony. A District Court judge ordered release of the October 1994 deposition on Thursday.

During the four days of sworn testimony, Sanchez demonstrated how he, as leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, was slow to deal with sexual abuse accusations against priests under his authority.

"Maybe what we have done is made Sanchez the scapegoat for everything," Debrey-Nowak said. "There are many other Catholic people who haven't behaved well."

Debrey-Nowak, of Placitas, is a former professional counselor who dealt with victims of abusive priests, including her sons. She said she had firsthand knowledge of the scandal that rocked the archdiocese of approximately 275,000 Catholics in northern and central New Mexico.

She admitted she has "grown and changed how I view things" since going public in 1993 about how the Rev. Arthur Perrault allegedly molested her sons, then 91/2 and 11, starting in 1976.

Perrault was one of a number of priests accused of molesting children at New Mexico parishes. He left Albuquerque after allegations of his sexual misconduct surfaced in 1992. His whereabouts is unknown.

Debrey-Nowak, no longer a practicing Catholic, recalled meeting with the former archbishop after learning of what she thought was just one incident of abuse involving Perrault and her boys. She said Sanchez told her Perrault would receive help for his problem.

She said she thought the matter was taken care of, only to learn from her sons in 1993 that Perrault had been abusing them for 22 months before what she thought was the only incident.

"Children are trained not to say bad things about a priest or they'll go to hell," she said.

"Some people are horrified that I have forgiven Robert Sanchez, and I have. Other people say there's nothing to forgive, that he did nothing wrong. He did plenty wrong."

Debrey-Nowak said that perhaps Sanchez was honest when he said in the deposition that it never entered his mind to ask a bad priest about other victims.

In Debrey-Nowak's opinion, the statements in Sanchez's deposition give the impression that he was in denial because the pain of the scandal was so great.

Debrey-Nowak said she thinks the former archbishop still doesn't understand the tragic consequences of the situation after reading his statement, which was issued this week in conjunction with the deposition.

She cited Sanchez's comment about how the Holy Spirit will "heal and transform our lives" as Catholics approach the great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

"In general, the victims I know well are not in a healing mode and they're not doing well in life," Debrey-Nowak said. "I have spent a lot of time with other victims."

Attorney Stephen Tinkler said most of the clients he represented in cases against the archdiocese are still trying to deal with the effects of sexual abuse incidents.

Tinkler said his Santa Fe-based firm, Tinkler & Bennett, handled more than one-third of the cases against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. All their cases have been settled. One of the conditions is that monetary amounts be kept confidential, he said.

The deposition's public release was important, he said, because it showed in detail what the Catholic Church, through the archbishop, knew about various priests and their alleged sexual abuse of children. Tinkler said Sanchez admitted in numerous places in the deposition that he "didn't do anything to discipline or censor or take any action whatsoever against the priests."

The Sanchez depositions, including the one released about 11/2 years ago, helped end the speculation the public had about what the church knew and didn't know about sexual misconduct in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s, he said.

"And I believe that as a result of all the litigation that went on — the 160 cases that were filed — the Catholic Church has taken the appropriate steps to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again," Tinkler said.


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