The Land of Enchantment has long been at the very heart of the scandal,
for here the Church hid some of its worst abusers
The first version of this article was originally printed in The Albuquerque Tribune, May 7, 2002.
This served as the original basis of my expose, Sons of Perdition
"The sexual affairs of priests in the U.S. are more closely guarded secrets than the classified details of our national defense."
Emmett McGloughlin, Crime and Immorality in the Catholic Church, 1962
Fifty years have almost passed since McGloughlin, a former Phoenix Franciscan, wrote those disturbing words. But only now is their truth becoming apparent, especially here, in the Land of Enchantment and Secrets.
New Mexico has been as deeply enmeshed in concealing the secrets of the church as it has been in protecting those of the federal government.
At the start of 1947, the year of Roswell's flying saucers, the CIA and the Cold War, and just across the mountains from the secret atomic city of Los Alamos, a new religious order was born in an old inn. It was situated in the beautiful Jemez Canyon.
Founded by Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a former military chaplain, the Servants of the Paraclete have played a significant role in what is now a global crisis.
His noble idea was to help priests having difficulties with their vocation, mainly alcoholics, and to provide a refuge for those who couldn't cope and had nowhere else to go.
However, he came to New Mexico not just for the natural beauty, but for the same reason the military and its bomb designers did: isolation.
New Mexico has always been in the outlands, where powerful government institutions could build their projects largely out of public view. For the church, there were added advantages in a large sympathetic Catholic population crying out for more priests.
New Mexico's faithful would eagerly accept whatever clergy they could get, with few questions asked.
So Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne of Santa Fe was the only person who responded when Fitzgerald put out a request for a place to situate his monastery.
Fitzgerald moved quickly, buying 2,000 acres in the Jemez. Ultimately, a halfway house (now sold) was set up in Albuquerque's South Valley, and other centers were established in St. Louis and even in England.
Fr. Liam Hoare, third head of the order, boasted that by the time Fitzgerald died in 1969, "in the Catholic Church, Jemez Springs had become a byword for `healing.'"
To some, perhaps. However, according to McGloughlin, among the clergy it had been known as "ecclesiastical 'jail'" for at least 15 years.
McGloughlin was a forerunner of all those priests who would quit and get married after Vatican II, the Second Ecumenical Council to modernize the church during which some did not realize their hope to modify clerical celibacy but provisions were adopted for leaving the priesthood. He wrote controversial books with a rare alternative glimpse inside the pre-Vatican II Church.
"It will come as a surprise to most Americans," he wrote in 1954, "to know that there are institutions in the United States to which priests are sent without any trial. . . . One (such), supported by the hierarchy, is in Jémez (sic) Springs, New Mexico, near Albuquerque."
"The `crimes' for which priests are sent . . . are generally alcoholism, insubordination, or lapses in the realm of celibacy," he wrote.
Then he recounted case after case of fallen priests, such as Fr. Dukind, caught by the FBI in 1960 living in Phoenix with a 17-year-old girl he had abducted from Wisconsin. Dukind fully expected to be sent to Jemez Springs instead of jail.
But Fitzgerald wanted nothing to do with child abusers, it was revealed during the lawsuits. Calling them "devils," he said "the wrath of God" was on them, and they should be forcibly ousted from the priesthood.
Thinking child abusers were incurable, in 1963 the Servants of the Paraclete might have bought a Caribbean island to isolate them for life. But for reasons still not clear, a deal was worked out instead with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and others to quietly reintroduce some sex offenders to parish ministry. The tragic results of that decision are well known.
Meanwhile, not all was happy in Jemez Springs. Fr. John Murphy, pastor of the local parish, complained in the mid-1960s that the monastery's "guests" were making homosexual passes at local residents, and that some members of the order themselves had their own serious, untreated problems with alcohol, drugs and sexual issues.
According to the Paracletes, they began a residential program in 1977 (perhaps a reference to the half-way house in Albuquerque). But that decade, they also destroyed most of their old files - supposedly to save space - and advised the Archdiocese to do the same.
Since their programs are confidential, there is only their word that residential treatment actually has ended in Jemez Springs. Hopefully, it is more trustworthy than those assurances they gave that Fathers James Porter, David Holley and Jason Sigler - among others whom they let loose - were cured and safe.
They have admitted, however, that an unidentified number of dropouts from their program might still be living in the state.
Also, several strange deaths of priests have been associated with them in recent years, including two murders. The most recent victim, Fr. Mike Mack, a Paraclete, was killed in one of their own houses. When arrested, the suspect claimed he acted in self-defense.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe (“the city of Holy Faith”) was an early epicenter of the crisis. Archbishop Robert Sanchez became the first high prelate in the nation to be disgraced by the scandal when CBS’ newsmagazine 60 Minutes revealed his affairs with several women. Whether he was being blackmailed, his inability to cope with the situation was a factor along with the state being used as a dumping ground.
The current Archbishop, Michael J. Sheehan, has done much to settle claims and calm the flock. He, however, has his own baggage too he was the rector of the seminary who admitted former-priest Rudy Kos, whose abuse in Dallas (including phoning boys while he was still in treatment at Jemez Springs) led to the biggest settlement against the Church to that time.
Puzzling questions linger around clergy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, too. For example, there is the recent convoluted Albuquerque case of Fr. Robert Malloy, a former police chaplain and pastor of Queen of Heaven Church.
He was accused in 1998 of 42 charges, including sexual offenses against boys, evidence tampering and hiring or offering for hire some boys to perform sexual acts. After a long, strange investigation in which even his own attorney was briefly forbidden to see the evidence, he was finally given nearly five years probation after pleading no contest to five counts of attempted criminal solicitation to commit tampering with evidence, suspended from working in a parish, forbidden to have unsupervised contact with minors and required to attend therapy.
What he was up to was not clear. The evidence was sealed for a long time, and when revealed, showed a bizarre and detailed scheme. He apparently sent explicitly sexual anonymous notes to somewhere between five and fourteen teenaged boys requesting semen samples to be delivered to him through dead-drops right out of a spy novel in return for cash. He asked them to destroy the notes, which led to the final charges.
Some boys complied police even found a videotape of Malloy examining the sperm through a microscope in his kitchen, making comments like a doctor. This puzzling behavior, prosecutors thought, would undoubtedly have led to direct contact and attempted oral sex had he not been arrested.
And speaking of puzzling, where's Fr. Perrault?
Arthur J. Perrault, a very prominent pastor, former teacher at St. Pius X High School, guest of the Paracletes and abuser of both sexes, was a close friend of Archbishop Robert Sanchez. He disappeared shortly after the first rumors concerning him surfaced in 1992 and has not been seen since.
Was he tipped off or helped? Is he being protected somewhere, for some reason?
The Archdiocese fought hard and successfully to protect its secrets from The Albuquerque Tribune and other news organizations that joined to seek the release of information gathered during the lawsuits.
A panel of four judges suppressed much of it, including the names of sexually active priests that Archbishop Sanchez gave during his depositions. Why are all those records still concealed?
Finally, what about New Mexico's original population, the Pueblo Indians? In Canada, lawsuits brought against the churches and the government over horrific abuses of native people in the residential school system have already bankrupted one Catholic order and threaten the entire Catholic and Anglican churches there.
Yet, there have been no such lawsuits here. Were Indians here, subject even longer to the missions, somehow luckier? Or are their stories yet to be heard?
The Indians endured oppression from the first European contact, not just by the conquistadores, but by the missionaries who accompanied them. The Spanish encomienda system set up missions as estates, built and maintained by the native population as payment for the “enlightenment” brought by the friars.
And the Spanish, of course, brought the Inquisition with them, headquartered at the pueblo of Quarai. The Inquisition and Spanish officials were vigilant against the Indian population “relapsing” into their former ways. In 1675, for instance, the colonial governor, had 48 religious leaders from various pueblos whipped and forced to do hard labor, and several hung. The Spanish had put down attempted rebellions at least twice before that, but this would lead to their undoing, for the survivors included Popé and a couple other leaders of the revolt that, for a dozen years, would succeed in pushing the Spanish out.
The Inquisition did pursue its other usual suspects here, including witches. According to The Witches of Abiquiu, witch trials lasting a decade were launched by a Franciscan priest, Juan Jose Toledo, who believed a group of Indians living in the area had bewitched him and made him sick.
Meanwhile, the inquisitors struggled against the colonial administration and were also on the watch for “crypto-Jews,” those Jews who escaped deportation from Spain by falsely converting to Christianity. They were forbidden to travel to the colonies lest they escape the watchful eyes of the authorities, yet many did. Several were found in New Mexico, and one even was burned with due ceremony in Mexico City. Others remain to this day in the villages of northern New Mexico, some still practicing their ancestral religion secretly, like their neighbors in the kivas.
As for the Indians, one indication of their true feelings might be the fact that among the Hopis, the figure of Yowe, the Priest-Killing Kachina appeared as their protector. This semi-divine figure depicted with a cross (or sometimes a severed head) in one hand, and a bloody knife in the other is said to have killed the Catholic priest at Oraibi who stole his girlfriend (!).
When the Pueblo Revolt ignited in 1680, the missions were a major target of the Indians, and indeed, fortified churches such as in Santa Fe provided refuge for some beleaguered colonists. But the Indians killed what priests they could find 21 in all and burnt the hated missions. And even today, there are still tales of lost Franciscan treasure waiting to be found...
These days, New Mexicans might rightly feel a sense of déjà vu over current headlines.
But there is no reason to be complacent, because clearly there is much still to be revealed in this secret land where abusive priests were sent to “ecclesiastical ‘jail.’”
For the UFO connection to New Mexico, see Aliens in the Outlands.
Previous: Priests with AIDS