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Report: Pennsylvania priests accused of sex abuse sent to New Mexico

August 19, 2018

A grand jury’s report on widespread sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania casts new light on the church’s practice of shuffling many clergymen accused of misconduct to New Mexico.

The report, which was released last week and prompted a response from the Vatican, included several cases that eventually led to the Southwest.

Ultimately, the grand jury paints a picture New Mexicans will recognize — one in which the state became a place for bishops to send predators and then ignore or cover up reports about their misconduct. Many priests who had committed sexual abuse were housed at an order called Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, then eventually moved to assignments at parishes unaware of their alleged crimes.

Nearly 20 pages of the 887-page report are dedicated to Edward Graff, who is described as having worked for nearly 30 years in schools and parishes around the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., before officials sent him to New Mexico for treatment of unspecified but “serious” conduct.

The grand jury obtained letters from the bishop in Allentown to Robert Sanchez, then archbishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe.

“The subject of the letters was whether Sanchez was ‘aware of the seriousness of these cases,’ ” the grand jury wrote, adding that the context indicated Graff had more than a problem with alcohol but ultimately providing no other details.

Graff later moved to the Texas Panhandle. But in one letter, the bishop of Allentown at the time raised alarm about this move. Last he had heard, Graff was working with the homeless and with AIDS patients in Albuquerque, the letter said. Moving to the Panhandle and buying a house was a concern, the bishop wrote “because of his past history in this diocese.”

“While this is not a new concern, I am prompted to express it anew at this time because an individual came forward recently and reported that he had had some difficulties with Father Graff in the past,” Bishop Thomas Welsh wrote in a subsequent letter.

The bishop of Amarillo wrote at the time that Graff was much beloved by his parishioners.

But in 2002, Graff was arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy. Graff died in jail awaiting trial. Several people have since come forward accusing Graff of sexually abusing them.

The grand jury heard testimony about Graff, writing that he was said to have been particularly violent in his assaults and seemed to take as much pleasure in causing pain as in the criminal sexual acts themselves.

Graff is not known to have been the subject of any lawsuits alleging abuse in New Mexico, though.

And when the Archdiocese of Santa Fe released a list last year identifying 74 clergymen it said had been the subject of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse, Graff wasn’t named. In fact, none identified in the grand jury’s report was listed last year in New Mexico’s overview of priests linked to molestation of children.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese did not respond to The New Mexican’s questions about the report.

The grand jury noted several other priests who spent at least a few months each in New Mexico at treatment facilities run Servants of the Paraclete.

They included the Revs. Edmond Parrakow, Raymond Lukac, Robert Cofenas, James Gaffney, Francis Joseph McNelis, Bruno Tucci, Joseph Rock and Robert Hannon.

Dioceses around the country had long been known to send clergymen accused of misconduct to Servants of the Paraclete. The grand jury said Parrakow, for example, told Paraclete he had molested about 35 boys.

This information was reportedly turned over to a diocese in Pennsylvania. But that diocese did not appear to share this information with other dioceses where Parrakow was later assigned.

In a statement on Thursday, the Vatican described the abuses outlined the report as “criminal and morally reprehensible.”

“Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith,” the statement said. “The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

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