Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Nearly 1,000 pages of Archdiocese of Santa Fe court records were released to the public on Wednesday, including letters written showing that church leaders knew of allegations of sexual abuse against three priests long before the priests left or were barred from ministry.
The records, released by order of District Judge Alan Malott, mark the largest release of Archdiocese of Santa Fe records since alleged victims of clerical sexual abuse began filing lawsuits against the archdiocese in the early 1990s.
The records include a wide variety of documents from the archdiocese’s personnel files, including letters written by three archbishops of Santa Fe, some in correspondence with bishops of other dioceses where the three priests lived and worked.
The records comprise what had been a secret history of the careers of former priests Jason Sigler and Sabine Griego, who both live today in New Mexico, and Arthur Perrault, who has fled the country.
Malott issued the order in response to a request by KOB-TV LLC, which filed in July as an intervenor in seven clerical abuse cases for the purpose of obtaining court records.
The records were obtained in the course of lawsuits filed by Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall, who has filed more than 70 lawsuits since 2011 on behalf of alleged clerical abuse victims. Hall compiled the records to support “timelines” he uses in ongoing lawsuits against the archdiocese.
In a written response, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe said that church leaders hope that the disclosure of documents “will serve as an additional step in healing for survivors, their families, our Church, and
communities.” The archdiocese had the same intent when it disclosed on Sept. 12 a list of clergy accused of sexual misconduct.
“Going forward, the archdiocese intends to continue promoting transparency in its efforts to protect children and young people from sexual abuse by clergy or anyone else in the community, while at the same time being careful to respect the rights of those who may be falsely accused,” and the privacy of victims, the archdiocese said.
The records paint a picture of a diocese that repeatedly assigned priests accused of sexually abusing children to posts where they could abuse again. They include letters and reports from psychologists to church leaders that detail allegations against the three.
Perrault, who is alleged to have sexually abused at least 38 boys in New Mexico, was recommended for a teaching post at St. Pius X High School in 1966 by a psychologist under contract with the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, a religious order that ran a treatment center for pedophile priests.
“We would like to recommend that you consider (Perrault) for acceptance to this Diocese and to permanent assignment to keep him at either the high school or the college level,” Dr. John Salazar, clinical director at the facility, told Archbishop James Davis in a letter.
Perrault was sent to the Jemez Springs facility in 1965 after he was accused of molesting “some of the young men with whom he was working” at the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., where he was ordained in 1964.
Perrault ignited the clerical abuse scandal in New Mexico when he vanished from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging Perrault had sexually assaulted seven children at his parish.
After vanishing for a quarter century, Perrault turned up last year in Morocco, working at an English-language school for children, where he was subsequently fired. It is not clear where he is now.
While Perrault brought to light abuse in New Mexico, fellow priest Jason Sigler far surpassed Perrault’s victim count – and supervisory priests had numerous opportunities to take him out of circulation.
In the court documents amassed documenting Sigler’s trail through rural parishes in New Mexico, attorney Hall counts at least 63 young male victims who endured often semiweekly fondling, oral sex and, later, as Sigler’s conduct remained unchecked, forced anal sex.
Sigler served mostly in rural northern New Mexico churches, but finished his career at St. Therese Parish and St. Therese Little Flower School at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Albuquerque.
He was given the Albuquerque assignments after one of several stays at the Servants of the Paraclete.
The priest in charge of that facility, in a letter dated 1978 to then-Archbishop of Santa Fe Robert Sanchez, himself later accused of sexual misconduct involving young women, told the archbishop that Sigler has been a “great help” to the older priest residents and has been asking for his own church again.
“I feel that this would be good for him and I am confident that he will be able to function responsibly,” the Rev. Joseph McNamara writes in the letter.
After release from the facility and in charge of his church in Albuquerque, Sigler assaulted another 14 boys, according to Hall’s documents. He is never reprimanded by the church, and is instead thanked graciously for his service when he decides to leave the priesthood to get married.
Sigler and his wife live in Taylor Ranch. He was the only one of the three to be charged or convicted, and is on the state’s sex offender registry.
Griego was the only one of the three who was born and raised in New Mexico. Hall’s timeline indicates that he is accused of assaulting 32 children at New Mexico parishes, including a 9-year-old girl at Queen of Heaven Parish in Albuquerque.
Former Archbishop Michael Sheehan wrote in a 2004 memorandum that Griego’s case is extraordinary because of the “sheer volume and heinous nature of the accusations.” Payments to 17 of Griego’s victims approached $3 million, he wrote.
Messages left on Sigler’s voice mail were not returned Wednesday. Griego declined to comment when reached by phone on Wednesday.