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Two Catholic priests accused of child sexual abuse in southern NM

LAS CRUCES – Two more Catholic priests were accused this week of child sexual abuse in southern New Mexico.

Civil complaints were filed against the two priests, as well as the Las Cruces and El Paso dioceses and the parishes where the alleged sexual abuse occurred. Priests Roderick Nichols and Damian Gamboa were named in the alleged abuse of John Doe and Jane Doe.

According to court documents, John Doe alleges Nichols abused him in the early 1990s when the alleged victim was about 13 years old. At the time, Nichols was the pastor and administrator of St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Silver City. He was formerly listed as a chaplain for jail and prison ministry, but according to the diocese directory for 2020, Nichols is a retired diocesan priest.

Jane Doe alleges Gamboa abused her in the early 1980s, according to court documents. The alleged victim was about 13 or 14 years old. At the time, Gamboa was serving as the pastor and administrator of St. Francis de Paula Church Inc. in Tularosa. The church was formerly under the El Paso Diocese, but has since been reassigned to the Las Cruces Diocese.

The complaints name the diocese, parishes and the Order of Friars Minor — Province of St. Barbara for “imbuing” the two priests with power over the children and not supervising them. Both complaints outline requests for payment of compensatory damages, punitive damages and a jury trial to address the issues in the cases.

“Any time we are dealing with new priests like these two, we wonder whether there are additional victims,” Levi Monagle, the attorney who represents both plaintiffs, said in a news release. “It is so incredibly difficult for any abuse survivor to be the first on record against an accused perpetrator, but these two survivors have bravely stepped forward to make their voices heard.”

The lawsuits were filed early this week and further action has yet to be taken. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces could not be reached for comment.

The Las Cruces Diocese, in February 2019, released thousands of pages of files involving 28 priests who face credible allegations of sexually abusing children.

The diocese, at that time, said that it has voluntarily shared personnel files with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Diocese officials, at the time, also identified 13 additional priests who have been the subject of credible allegations while serving in another diocese.

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