Las Cruces Diocese releases accused priests’ personnel files
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Thousands of pages that include the personnel files of more than two dozen priests accused of sexually abusing children have been turned over to the New Mexico attorney general’s office, the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces said Monday.
Diocese officials also identified 13 other priests who have been the subject of credible allegations while serving in other dioceses.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas said the documents were released following a review of personnel files and archives of clergy and staff that are held by the diocese. While some information was redacted due to privacy concerns, he said the move is part of the diocese’s efforts to address past mistakes.
“I am aware that the failures to address the harm done to children within the household of faith have scandalized, hurt and angered many of our Catholic people and others,” he said in a statement.
Kicanas apologized to those who have been hurt over the years and those whose complaints were ignored, but he said church officials have to go beyond apologies and “demonstrate our resolve in measurable ways.”
The release comes as the Catholic Church reckons globally with a wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal. Last week, the largest association of religious sisters in the United States called for an overhaul of the male-led leadership structure of the church after Pope Francis acknowledged the problem of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns.
In New Mexico, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is wading through bankruptcy proceedings and one former priest on the archdiocese’s list of those credibly accused was arrested Friday on charges he kidnapped and raped a 6-year-old boy during the mid-1980s.
State prosecutors on Monday filed a motion requesting that Marvin Archuleta, 81, remain in custody pending trial. He has not yet hired an attorney.
The Las Cruces diocese in November released the names of 28 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Those names were made public after the state attorney general’s office asked to review personnel records for any material that might be related to past or present allegations of abuse.
Letters seeking “full disclosure and transparency” were also sent to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and to church leaders in Gallup.
The request came in the wake of a grand jury report that said more than 300 Catholic priests abused at least 1,000 children over the past seven decades in six Pennsylvania dioceses. That report said senior figures in the church hierarchy systematically covered up complaints.
The attorney general’s office said Monday that the diocese should have handed over the documents last fall. The agency pointed specifically to information regarding Lucas Galvan, a former priest that prosecutors say was previously convicted of sexual abuse in Colorado and was still allowed to be around children while working in Las Cruces.
Deacon Jim Winder, vice chancellor in the Las Cruces diocese, said he expects the release of the documents to lead to more investigation and that church officials are open to state prosecutors scouring records.
“People have been begging the church to be honest. This is a huge step in the right direction,” Winder said of the release.
Winder also pointed to policies enacted by the church and the establishment of a committee that reviews every complaint of sexual misconduct received by the diocese, which serves nearly a quarter-million parishioners in southern New Mexico. The panel is made up of members of the judiciary, law enforcement, mental health and medical professions and others from the region.