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Four ID themselves as survivors of sexual abuse

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Two men and two women who have filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe each took the podium at a public “rally for survivors” event Wednesday to drop their anonymity and identify themselves as survivors of sexual abuse by priests.

The four, identified in lawsuits as John or Jane Does, told about 100 people that they were abused as children by priests, and described their later battles with guilt, shame and substance abuse. The disclosures followed those in December of two men who are suing the archdiocese.

“For me, I find this is a way to shed the guilt and shame I carried around for 40 years,” said John Lund, 54, who contends he was repeatedly raped by Clive Lynn in the early 1970s when Lynn pastored St. Therese of the Infant Jesus Parish in Albuquerque.

Lynn later served in churches in Mora and Raton before the archdiocese removed him from ministry in 1985. Church officials said Lynn had later moved to Great Britain, according to news reports.

“This man was my best friend, my father figure, my hero,” Lund said in a reception room at the Albuquerque Museum. “I was from a fractured home and I didn’t have that in my life. He exploited that.”

Asked by a speaker to stand, at least five audience members identified themselves as victims of sexual abuse by priests, and a majority of the audience as family members of abuse victims.

Both women said they were sexually abused as girls by Walter Cassidy while he pastored at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the late 1960s. Cassidy also pastored at churches in Taos and Mora. He died in 1994.

“This monster took my innocence from me,” said Diana Abeyta, 56, of Santa Fe who said Cassidy raped her repeatedly from the ages of 8 to 10 when she sang in the choir at her family church. “He used his authority to threaten me, to frighten me. I thought he was my only chance of getting to heaven because he was doing God’s work.”

Lydia Estrada, 57, of Albuquerque said she was raped by Cassidy for two years while she took his catechism class at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Like other speakers, Estrada told abuse victims to speak out and seek help.

“You need to not be afraid to come forward because you only hurt yourself,” she said. “Don’t hold it in for 45 years because it will kill you.”

Louie Toya, 54, a member of Jemez Pueblo, attended St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe in his early teens, where he alleges in a lawsuit he was raped by Dennis Huff, a Franciscan brother. Toya said he ran away from the school and struggled with alcoholism for much of his life.

“I am no longer harboring secrets for the Catholics,” Toya said.

The new disclosures bring to six the number of plaintiffs who have publicly identified themselves as victims of clerical abuse.

In November, Brian Gutierrez of Albuquerque and Ken Wolter of Detroit identified themselves as John Does C and D, who filed lawsuits against the archdiocese in 2014. All are represented by Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall, who since 2012 has filed more than 50 lawsuits against the archdiocese, of which about 30 have been settled for undisclosed amounts.

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