Santa Fe’s Curious Omission

The current Archbishop of Santa Fe, John Wester, recently released a  of “accused priests, deacons, and religious.” The 74 names listed were supposed  “to publicly acknowledge and identify those clergy and
religious who have been accused of perpetrating child sexual abuse within our archdiocese”, surely a noble goal. However, it is both incomplete and little more than hype.

It carefully presents the Catholic Church as a caring and responsible guardian, doing its best to right wrongs that really weren’t its fault. He talks of “Victims Assistance” and “Independent Review Boards,” and speaks thoughtfully of transparency and the danger of false accusations. It’s all very reassuring and paternal, but as a victims and survivor, I know better. I’ve heard it all before and it means nothing to me. Pardon my language, but it’s horseshit, folks, pure and simple.

Most victims and their parents reached out in good faith to the Church. Very few wanted punishment for the abusers, even fewer wanted money; most merely expected the Church to do the right thing – remove the abuser from any chance of harming children again. Parents and children were solemnly assured, time and time again, that it would be taken care of, and that no more kids would be harmed.

And the Church lied. They took care of the priests, all right, by shuffling perpetrators around without warning supervising clergy or parishioners. When they were finally caught, they offered cash to victims to keep the records sealed with a little therapy to make it all better. But it’s not money that is needed, it’s never been about money, but true spiritual leadership. And the Church still doesn’t get it.

I was very forcefully reminded of this by the Archbishop’s statement. The list claims to list “all clergy and religious who worked within the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe” including those not incardinated (or approved to perform the sacraments) here. While thus listing many of the perpetrators sent to the Servants of the Paraclete from out-of-state,  and a few I hadn’t even heard of,  it does not list several, for some reason, such as Ted Llanos and Rudy Kos. Why? Because they committed suicide – is that considered payment for their sins?

While mystifying, far more serious is the lack of any mention of the man at the top who did nothing while the Archdiocese burned – Wester’s disgraced predecessor, Robert Fortune Sanchez. While Sanchez may not have preyed on minors, he most certainly did molest and seduce young, impressionable college-aged women. And while he was busy diddling co-eds, the Archbishop let child-rapists run free, including repeatedly letting off the most notorious one of all, Sanchez’ still-missing friend, Msgr. Arthur J. Perrault.

This shows, as if any further evidence was needed, that nothing has fundamentally changed. The Roman Catholic Church continues to hide its sins behind a smoke screen of legalistic technicalities and ancient privilege. What would Christ do? He surely didn’t call on lawyers to throw the faithful’s money away covering-up his clergy’s crimes. Nor did he convene private Review Boards to secretly conceal offenders. No, Jesus Christ warned that “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)

My sainted mother had a saying, “Sorry doesn’t mend it.” Until the Church truly reforms itself, the Archbishop should stop bleating and beg God for wisdom and forgiveness. How often must this be repeated?

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