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State attorney general searching Santa Fe archdiocese records

March 2, 2019

The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office this week searched a trove of records at the Archdiocese of Santa Fe on two former Albuquerque priests accused of repeatedly raping a child over several years in the 1980s.

Both were identified by the Catholic Church as “credibly accused” sexual abusers.

The accuser, now 44, told investigators that the abuse began at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Albuquerque. He alleges he was raped by then-Rev. Ronald Bruckner beginning in 1984, when he was 9.

According to a search warrant affidavit filed Thursday in state District Court in Albuquerque, the accuser said that within two years, the Rev. Robert Malloy also began raping him. The abuse extended for at least four years, the affidavit says, with the two men assaulting the boy not only on church property, but also in Albuquerque hotel rooms, at state parks and during church events.

Much of the abuse occurred during Boy Scouts trips throughout the New Mexico wilderness, the accuser told investigators, as both former priests had served as Scout leaders.

In addition to raping the boy, the affidavit says, the priests filmed him performing sexual acts.

The accuser spoke with the Attorney General’s Office investigators in a Feb. 15 interview, saying he had lived close to the church and that his family was deeply immersed in the church community.

Malloy, 61, denied the allegations Friday. “I can only say that I unequivocally deny all of it,” he said when reached by phone. “Nothing like that happened. It is very disturbing. That did not occur — at any time.”

He declined to comment on how he has spent his time since leaving the clergy in 1998, when he faced criminal charges of soliciting teen boys for prostitution.

Most of the counts were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Last year, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe released a list of priests and brothers who had been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of children. Mallow and Bruckner were both on the list.

The allegations cited in Thursday’s search warrant affidavit first surfaced in a lawsuit the accuser filed in December against the Boy Scouts of America. The complaint alleges the organization placed the men “in a position of substantial power over the lives of vulnerable boys” and knew, or should have known, that children were being sexually abused in their care.

The Boy Scouts of America told the Attorney General’s Office that it destroys records about trips or meetings seven to 10 years after such events, according to the affidavit.

The state’s investigation into Malloy and Bruckner, 85, comes after former New Mexico priest Marvin Archuleta was indicted and arrested earlier this month on charges of raping and restraining a 6-year-old boy at Holy Cross Catholic School in Santa Cruz in the late 1980s — and amid the Roman Catholic Church’s larger reckoning of sexual abuse by clergy in New Mexico and around the world.

This week’s search of records from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is part of the attorney general’s nearly three-year investigation into sexual abuse by priests throughout New Mexico over the past several decades.

The attorney general has compelled the archdiocese to voluntarily hand over information. The search warrant affidavit indicates, however, that church officials have withheld many records and information about internal practices for addressing allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.

The documents requested from the archdiocese’s Catholic Center in Albuquerque is extensive, with the warrant seeking more than 50 types of records on the two former priests during the four decades between 1979 and 2019.

“We are trying to have a full accounting and accountability for past crimes,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said Friday.

“I did one of the largest sweeping voluntary disclosures,” Balderas said. “… I think it is an important step for [the Catholic Church’s] healing if they really mean what they say. … I also believe there is a vast amount of information on how they handled allegations that they could be more forthcoming — and they need to be more forthcoming — on their own.”

Balderas said he wants to work with the church as a “partner in the community” when it comes to accountability regarding clergy abuse.

The warrant requests records on all abuse complaints against Malloy and Bruckner, who was aware of their crimes and how the men were disciplined, including attempts to “rehabilitate” them.

The warrant also seeks records describing how the priests were allowed to teach and engage with children, and reports on all legal expenses and court settlements related to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Information about any internal investigations in the archdiocese, confidentiality agreements and responses to sexual abuse allegations against the men also was requested by the attorney general.

Malloy was ordained in 1983 in Las Vegas, N.M., but spent the majority of his 15-year career in various parishes and a hospital in Albuquerque. In 1998, he was accused of a couple of dozen criminal counts involving five teenage boys, including charges of hiring children for prostitution, criminal solicitation and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The case was resolved when he pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence.

Malloy was removed from the archdiocese. His current address is an Albuquerque residence within a two-minute drive of three elementary schools.

Bruckner worked throughout Northern New Mexico for 40 years, including at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque and at the former College of Santa Fe. He also spent five years at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.

But most of his time as a priest was spent at Our Lady of the Assumption and Our Lady of the Annunciation in Albuquerque, where he remained until 2005.

His work for the clergy was restricted that year following allegations he had sexually abused minors at Our Lady of the Assumption Middle School in the 1970s and ’80s. Five male victims came forward in letters sent to the archdiocese in 1995, according to reports on BishopAccountability.org and in the Albuquerque Tribune.

Bruckner also is listed as living in Albuquerque — near two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.

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