Questa man claims sexual abuse, sues Archdiocese of Santa Fe

Posted at: 04/02/2013 5:21 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A 37 year old man from Questa says he was sexually abused by his parish priest when he was a boy back in the 1980s. Now he’s suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for damages.

He’s known as “John Doe” in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Albuquerque. The idea is that the archdiocese failed to screen, train or supervise Father Michael O’Brien, a priest the lawyers believe is now dead.

John Doe says he was an altar boy at St. Anthony church in Questa. He says he was about ten or eleven years old when Father O’Brien escalated from back rubs to criminal sexual contact and penetration.

Doe’s lawyer, Brad Hall of Albuquerque, says the lawsuit is part of the healing process for his client.

“I believe this is one of those cases,” Hall said. “I don’t think he’s motivated by verdicts or dollars. He truly has been in dire straits psychologically as he has come to grips with this.”

The lawsuit says the abuse wrecked Doe’s life, leading him to “self-medication…binges…suicidal attempts,” resulting in a need for expensive medical and psychological treatment.

Doe’s lawyer wonders why the Catholic Church does not react to such cases the way Penn State did in the case of football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

“The university handled things by participating and getting indictments and rooting out the problem and helping the victims,” Hall said.

Father John Cannon, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, sent us a written statement.

“This alleged incident occurred 30 years ago,” Father Cannon said. “The Archdiocese has had a zero tolerance policy in place for over 20 years. We do not comment on pending litigation.”