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Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse at South Valley church

A Bernalillo County man alleges in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe that he was sexually abused as a boy by two priests in the late 1980s at a South Valley church.

The lawsuit alleges that the Rev. Edward Donelan and the Rev. Laurier Labreche abused him while he served as an altar boy at Church of the Ascension Parish in Albuquerque.

The alleged abuse began in 1989 when the man, identified only as John Doe 66, began serving as an altar boy and continued until he was 13, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last month in 2nd Judicial District Court in Albuquerque.

It is the latest of 66 lawsuits filed by Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall against the archdiocese alleging clergy sexual abuse.

Attempts by the Journal to contact Labreche were unsuccessful. Public records list Labreche as an Albuquerque resident, but no one answered the door at the listed residence this week. Nor did anyone respond to a written message left at the house.

The archdiocese responded in a written statement that it does not comment on pending litigation, but it rigorously enforces a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct by clergy and employees.

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“The Archdiocese mandates that every priest, deacon, seminarian and lay person working with minors must be vetted, have passed a background check and completed the Archdiocesan safe environment training,” the statement said. “Our safe environment coordinator, along with our long-standing Independent Review Board, ensures these policies are stringently followed.”

Donelan, who died in 1994 at age 70, was the focus of several lawsuits in the 1990s alleging he had sexually abused boys at the New Mexico Boys’ School in Springer, where he was chaplain from 1958 to 1970, and at a church-approved boys ranch near Farley, called Hacienda de los Muchachos, which he directed from 1966 until it was closed in 1978, according to Journal news reports.

Donelan also pastored several churches in Albuquerque, Mountainair, Springer and Santa Fe.

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