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Four men allege sex abuse by NM priests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In lawsuits filed this month against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, four more men allege that they were sexually abused as children by priests in New Mexico.

The suits, filed in state District Court in Albuquerque, name two priests as perpetrators: Sabine Griego and the late Wilfred Bombardier.

Both men were included on a list released by Archbishop John C. Wester of clergy who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Griego, who was removed from the priesthood in 2005, still lives in northern New Mexico. He could not be reached for comment.

Celine Radigan, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said she could not comment on pending lawsuits. But she said the archdiocese prays “for all who have been victims of the sad reality of sexual abuse.”

The complaints are the latest of approximately 74 lawsuits filed by attorneys Brad Hall and Levi Monagle in recent years. Monagle said roughly two-thirds of those lawsuits have been settled.

Three of the latest group of plaintiffs were abused as altar boys, while the fourth was abused while he was being recruited to serve as an altar boy, according to the lawsuits.

Reached for comment last week, Monagle said both priests are considered serial perpetrators. And according to court records, the archdiocese has reached settlements with at least 32 people who say they were abused by Griego as children.

Radigan said the archdiocese “continues to be vigilant and stands firm on its zero tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct.”

Everyone working with children must be vetted and must pass a background check, she said, and a review board works to ensure those policies are followed.

Allegations contained in the lawsuits are as follows:

• A Las Vegas man says he was abused on hundreds of occasions from around ages 8 to 16 by Griego. The priest frequently used altar wine to intoxicate the boy before these assaults, and said that the wine “had to be consumed because it was blessed,” according to the lawsuit.

He says he has been forced to struggle with the reality of the abuse while many refuse to believe it happened, thanks in large part to the church’s “institutional secrecy and evasion of transparency and public accountability.”

• In the late 1960s, a Las Vegas man says, he was sexually abused by Griego while he was being recruited to serve as an altar boy. He says he was abused during an overnight trip while being forced to share a bed with the priest.

“Fr. Griego knew that Catholic children were trained to give unquestioning obedience to priests, and abused their trained obedience for his own sexual gratification,” the suit alleges.

• When he was an altar boy in the mid-1950s, an Albuquerque man says, Bombardier repeatedly sexually abused him. The abuse happened while he attended St. Mary’s and while serving as an altar boy at Blessed Sacrament.

The priest kissed and fondled him, he alleges, and said that “participating in this special altar boy training was his ‘ticket to heaven.’ ”

• Another man says he, too, was sexually abused as an altar boy in Albuquerque from ages 10 to 13 by Bombardier, both at Blessed Sacrament and during overnight camping trips in the Sandia Mountains.

The abuse, he alleges, was “fused with altar boy training, and with rhetoric to the effect of how much God loved (him).”

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