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Dead priest is named in the abuse of an altar boy

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Yet another lawsuit alleging Catholic priest abuse of an altar boy has been filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, but the alleged abuser wasn’t on a list of credibly accused priests released by church authorities more than a year ago.

The alleged victim, who lives out of state, hadn’t disclosed the abuse that occurred in the 1970s in Peralta, south of Albuquerque, until he sought professional help this year for what seemed to be an unrelated issue, according to a recent lawsuit filed in state District Court in Albuquerque.

The unidentified plaintiff first disclosed he had been repeatedly sexually abused by Monsignor Albert Chavez during therapy he initially sought earlier this year because someone in his immediate family had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, his lawsuit says.

Monsignor Albert Chavez

As part of the therapy process, the therapist suggested he contact an attorney about Chavez, who was pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Peralta, later transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Truth or Consequences and eventually moved to the Diocese of Las Cruces to finish his career.

Identified as John Doe “92” in the lawsuit, the alleged victim first checked with a worker’s compensation lawyer he once hired, the lawsuit says. That attorney used the internet and referred the man to Brad Hall of Albuquerque, whose law firm has filed more than 100 cases of clerical sexual abuse since 2011.

The archdiocese didn’t immediately return a request for comment Tuesday. Chavez died in 1996 at age 75, according to news reports.

The lawsuit contends Chavez sexually abused and raped the plaintiff on at least 25 occasions, sometimes using alcohol to intoxicate the boy before the assaults. The sexual abuse by Chavez allegedly began about 1972 and continued until about 1977.

Hall said Tuesday that the plaintiff relied on his childhood psychological coping skills, until they finally gave way this year during therapy.

“Through therapy, Plaintiff is only now realizing the nature of the abuse and the delayed psychological reaction, and is only now realizing and connecting the harm caused to him by the actions of Defendants’ priest, and by Defendants in empowering Msgr. Chavez to have extraordinary power over Plaintiff (primarily by developing and exploiting Plaintiff’s sense of duty to the Church as a ‘true believer’ altar boy),” the lawsuit says.

In a news release, Hall described the new abuse accusations as “alarming,” partly because the archdiocese does not have Chavez on its list, released in September 2017, of 74 clergy members who were identified as having been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

More recently, the list was expanded to 78 clerics, but Chavez’s name doesn’t appear.

Archbishop John C. Wester called the disclosure last year “a critical step” in the archdiocese’s attempt to improve transparency and promote healing for survivors and their families as well as the church.

Levi Monagle, another attorney for John Doe “92,” said, “If there are unknown abusers out there, then obviously there are unknown victims of those abusers as well. At some point, this really begs the question as to whether the list compiled by the archdiocese is even remotely complete.”

The lawsuit says that before being assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Peralta in 1970, Chavez served in parishes in Santa Fe, Taos, Mora and Santa Rosa.

In 1961, Chavez was appointed the second pastor at St. Bernadette’s parish in Northeast Albuquerque, and during his eight years at the parish, he built the rectory and parish hall.

That is the same parish where the Rev. Arthur Perrault was alleged to have sexually assaulted altar boys and others in the mid-1980s to 1992. One of those former altar boys is the alleged victim in a recently unsealed federal criminal indictment charging Perrault with aggravated criminal assault.

Perrault, now 80, has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, which relate to alleged sexual assaults at Kirtland Air Force Base and the Santa Fe National Cemetery.

“By failing for decades to inform parishioners, civil authorities, or the general public of the child sexual abuse perpetrated by its clerics, the Archdiocese has knowingly engaged in conduct injurious to the health, safety and welfare of large numbers of the public, particularly minors, but also adults who were abused as children and then ‘locked it away,’ ” the lawsuit filed by John Doe “92” says.

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