ALBUQUERQUE – The Roman Catholic archbishop of Santa Fe says the archdiocese has received only two allegations of clergy sexual misconduct involving children since 1993 because of the numerous strict measures aimed at preventing further abuse.
Archbishop John C. Wester published an op-ed in The Albuquerque Journal on Sunday expressing “sadness and shame over the betrayal of trust” by clergy “who were supposed to love and protect our children,” and for the suffering of abuse survivors.
The op-ed follows the recent release by the archdiocese of a list of 74 clergy credibly accused of abuse and documents that shed light on how the church allowed three pedophile priests to continue to prey on New Mexico children more than 20 years ago.
“I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the Archdiocese to survivors and their families and my continued commitment to support and assist you on your road to healing and recovery,” Wester wrote.
His op-ed piece said psychological screening and background checks for prospective clergy and other zero-tolerance policies, such as training programs and workshops, are among steps taken to prevent further abuse.
Wester also said he personally meets with and apologizes to victims of clergy abuse, as did his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Sheehan.
Brad Hall, an Albuquerque attorney who has filed more than 70 lawsuits against the archdiocese on behalf of clergy abuse victims, said he welcomes any steps the archdiocese takes to prevent abuse and help survivors.
Some steps taken by the archdiocese, such as the release last month of a list of 74 clergy, were measures demanded for years by victims and long resisted by the archdiocese, he said.
Hall also said that not enough time has passed to know whether clerical abuse in the archdiocese ended in the early 1990s.
“There is an average of 30 years between sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust and the first time the survivor discloses it,” Hall said. “Hopefully, these days kids would report much sooner. But we don’t know.”
Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com