Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Priests Trouble New Mexico’s Catholics
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The Rev. David Holley was treated for pedophilia at a New Mexico retreat for troubled priests in 1971. But several men say he molested them as children after he got out.
And he’s only the latest of many priests accused of sexual abuse in a state where the Roman Catholic Church has held sway for centuries.
″Although New Mexico has only one-half of 1 percent of America’s population, it has 20 percent of America’s priest pedophiles,″ said attorney Bruce Pasternack, who represents 39 clients in sexual abuse lawsuits against former priests.
While Pasternack’s math may not be precise, the state in recent months has been rife with sexual abuse allegations involving current or former clergymen.
Authorities here and elsewhere are investigating seven current and former New Mexico priests for alleged sexual improprieties, some dating to the 1960s.
In all but one case, the accused priests were treated at Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, a retreat that handles various problems.
The latest allegations center on Holley, now 65 and retired in Denver. Pasternack last week added eight more names to a lawsuit accusing Holley of child sex abuse, bringing the number of plaintiffs to 10.
Holley also faces allegations he molested youths while assigned to parishes in Massachusetts between 1960 and 1972.
The lawsuit in New Mexico also claims Holley exploited children in pornographic pictures and films during the 1970s when he served at St. Jude Mission Church in Alamogordo, N.M.
The diocese of El Paso, Texas, which oversaw St. Jude in the 1970s, has not returned phone calls. Holley has refused to comment.
Pasternack maintains that pedophilia is not curable and that priests were assigned to New Mexico communities after treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete.
James Porter, the former priest accused of abusing dozens of people in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico, was a resident at the retreat in the late 1960s. He was convicted last month of molesting a 15-year-old baby sitter in 1987.
Pasternack wants the 45-year-old retreat, located in the isolated mountain village 50 miles northwest of Albuquerque, closed.
But the Rev. Liam Hoare, the ranking priest at the retreat, said it serves priests with various problems. The center’s lawyer, Alan Konrad, has said fewer than 6 percent of its residents are there because of sexual attraction to children.
At a news conference last week, seven men who claimed they were molested by Holley urged the church to react more aggressively to the charges.
″There’s a problem,″ said Noel Clark, an alleged victim. ″Hail Marys and holy hours are not addressing it.″
Pasternack said sexual abuse by priests has persisted for decades in New Mexico, with many of the victims Hispanic. More than one-third of New Mexico’s 1.5 million residents are Hispanic, and most are Catholic.
The church has played an important role in the state’s history since the first Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century. Catholic churches and missions are the focal points of most communities and Indian pueblos.
″Particularly in the rural and poorer areas of the state, Hispanics tend to be submissive to Anglo authority figures, especially priests,″ Pasternack said. ″Together, it’s a recipe for disaster.″
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is paying counseling expenses for more than a dozen victims or relatives of victims of priest sexual abuse. It also has established a nationwide toll-free hot line for people to report abuse by clergymen.
But the church disagrees with Pasternack on the problem’s scope.
And last week, Chancellor Ron Wolf said the archdiocese has evidence that Pasternack knowingly recruited clients who weren’t victims of child sexual abuse. Wolf did not elaborate.
Pasternack denies that charge.
″The sad and tragic truth is that our phone rings off the hook by people who were victimized by priests ... ,″ he said. ″The archdiocese knows it happened, and yet they want to blame everyone but themselves.″