Ex-treatment center for priests in Jemez Springs sued

May 17, 2019 GMT

A now-shuttered Jemez Springs treatment facility for Roman Catholic priests was named as a defendant in several lawsuits that accused the facility of enabling known pedophiles from other states to reenter the priesthood in New Mexico and sexually abuse children here.

In four lawsuits, filed Thursday by five anonymous plaintiffs, attorneys say the the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs took money from other dioceses to treat known pedophiles, but did not prevent them from working with children after — and at times, during — treatment.

As part of a “graduated program of rehabilitation,” the Servants of the Paraclete placed priests at parishes throughout New Mexico as part of the therapy process — often simply to fill in for temporary vacancies or a deficit in religious leadership at those parishes, according to the lawsuits.

The Paraclete did not inform the parishioners, families or law enforcement when it placed a known pedophile in a new community, the lawsuit alleges.

The Revs. Leo Courcy, James Porter and William Goltz were brought to New Mexico for treatment after concerns arose they had abused children in other states, according to the lawsuits. But when the Servants of the Paraclete again placed the men at parishes in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences in the 1960s and ’70s, often in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the abuse continued, the lawsuits claim.

The Servants of the Paraclete was founded in 1947, and for decades provided mental health treatment and other services to priests from around the country who had alcohol and drug abuse problems, as well as treating priests known to have sexually assaulted children at other parishes, according to the lawsuits.

The Jemez Springs center closed in the 1990s, but the organization and an affiliated foundation, remain active in Missouri and internationally.

The Servants of the Paraclete did not return a message seeking comment.

The cases come amid a renewed furor surrounding sexual assault by priests in New Mexico.

On June 17, a window will close for victims of sexual assault to file financial claims against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which filed for bankruptcy last year. In April, former priest Arthur Perrault was convicted of sexual crimes against children by a federal jury, the first ruling of its kind in New Mexico.

While dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the Servants of the Paraclete since the 1990s, none has gone to trial, said Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.

“These would be good candidates for a trial,” he said.

Courcy and Goltz are among the “credibly accused” priests listed by the archdiocese in 2018. Goltz is absent from the list, but was publicly accused by Dubuque, Iowa, Archbishop Jerome Hanus in 2006.

Goltz was sent to Jemez Spring for treatment three times between 1955 and 1967, also residing at an Albuquerque facility run by the Servants of the Paraclete in 1968, according to one lawsuit. It says the facility worked with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to place Goltz at

St. John the Baptist parish in Santa Fe.

It was there, over the course of roughly 15 months, that John Doe 122 says he was sexually assaulted by Goltz as a 14-year-old boy. The abuse occurred at the parish and on road trips to Albuquerque, the lawsuit states.

Goltz was later sent back to Iowa and died in Wisconsin in 2006, according to news reports.

The archdiocese did not respond to questions Thursday about why Goltz is absent from its list of credibly accused priests.

Hall said Goltz’s absence from New Mexico credibly accused lists “is an example of a Paraclete priest who slipped through the cracks and ended up working in parishes with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

“If they abused kids in our state,” he said, “it never got noticed.”

Porter, now deceased, was ordained in Massachusetts and frequently moved between parishes and states because of his “wrong relations with youth of the same sex,” according to the lawsuit.

After coming to New Mexico for treatment, he was placed for a summer at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Truth or Consequences, where, the lawsuit claims he abused an 11-year-old, identified as John Doe 112.

In 1970, the Rev. Fred Bennett, a clinical psychologist, said Porter would only continue to abuse children and recommended he be laicized, or removed from the priesthood. Instead, the Rev. John Feit, former Superior of Via Coeli in Jemez Springs, intervened on Porter’s behalf and allowed him to remain in the church, according to the lawsuits.

Feit, the lawsuits say, believed priests “needed to face their temptations in order to overcome them, and thus that pedophiles needed to be placed in close contact with children.”

In 1971, Porter was placed at St. Edwin Catholic Church in Albuquerque, where, a second lawsuit states, he abused another child on more than

20 occasions.

In a final lawsuit, two victims say Courcy, originally from Vermont, was twice treated in Jemez Springs in the late 1960s. It is unclear if Courcy is still living.

In 1969, four days after arriving in Jemez Springs for a second round of treatment, Courcy was assigned to the ministry at St. Anthony Parish in Questa. That summer, he played host to an overnight stay at the parish, where the lawsuit says he plied three boys with large amounts of wine and told them to bathe together.

One of the boys said in the lawsuit he was too intoxicated to walk and was raped that night by Courcy in the rectory bedroom.