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Opinion: Another viewpoint: Church must re-earn trust with transparency


December 12, 2018

In announcing that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe would seek bankruptcy protection, Archbishop John Wester said the action would help ensure fair compensation for sex-abuse victims.

His office went on to proclaim in a diocesan letter distributed to the faithful at Mass on Dec. 2 that “for over 25 years, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has been a leader among its peers in addressing sexual abuse of children by clergy.”

Wester is correct on the first point, given the number of potential cases pending and others not yet filed. Victims will be represented and have their days in court. They may do so confidentially if they wish, but in general these proceedings will be public. And bankruptcy protection will allow the Archdiocese to continue to provide valuable services through parishes and schools even as lawyers and the court sort through financial questions like what the Archdiocese’s assets really are and determine the status of assets transferred to parishes by the Archdiocese in recent years.

No surprise here. Bankruptcy proceedings are about money, property and who gets what.

But the statement about being a national leader in the clergy sex-abuse area gives new meaning to the proposition that everything is relative, and that what happened here should NOT be judged alone but in context of what has happened in other states like Pennsylvania — where the church was rocked by the results of an investigation by that state’s attorney general.

While the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has taken meaningful steps to stop abuse and to compensate and counsel victims — some 300 claims to date — the archdiocese has been anything but transparent. It fought tooth and nail to keep court files secret until Judge Alan Malott ordered them opened up last year at the request of KOB-TV.

Meanwhile, new disclosures and allegations continue to mount, putting the past conduct of the church under a microscope.

And what we see isn’t pretty. In fact, it’s shocking, outrageous and disgusting.

A search warrant affidavit by a sex crimes investigator in the state Attorney General’s office dated Nov. 28 in the ongoing criminal investigation of two former priests points out, “It has since been discovered that the Catholic Church’s highest-ranking officials contributed to helping contain the known abuse by handling atrocities internally” rather than reporting clear cases of the rape of children to authorities.

Atrocities isn’t an overstatement given what’s in the document.

The affidavit details repeated oral, vaginal and anal rape allegations made by a Jane Doe — who was just 9 years old when the abuse began — against former priest Sabine Griego when he was assigned to Queen of Heaven Parish in Albuquerque.

Even more troubling: The affidavit says that a letter “written by (then) Archbishop (Michael J.) Sheehan explicitly identified Sabine Griego as having committed criminal sexual penetration of the minor on several occasions.”

All things considered, the decision to file for bankruptcy protection would appear to be the right one — for all concerned. But for those who think the Band-Aid has been completely pulled off of this painful wound and healing is all that’s on the horizon, it would appear they are sadly mistaken.

Wester says the Archdiocese is on the right path. Trust us, he says.

That trust, severely damaged by horrific acts and then cover-ups to protect the perpetrators and Archdiocese coffers, will have to be re-earned.

Finally breaking with the church’s culture of secrecy and truly being more transparent is the only way to do it.

— Albuquerque Journal


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