We are members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. That’s why we’re here today outside the Catholic Center offices in Albuquerque.
Next month, America’s Catholic bishops will puff out their chests and brag about their massive public relations moves – the policies, panels and procedures they belatedly set up a decade ago when facing unprecedented pressure for ignoring and concealing horrific child sex crimes for decades. But what’s sorely missing is real action, especially simple, proven action to:
• -Help warn parishioners and the public about predators, and
• - Remove priests who pose a danger from ministry and monitor them to ensure they don’t hurt more kids.
-That’s why we’re here today – to warn Catholics and citizens about two child molesting clerics and to seek out anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered their crimes. Specifically, we’re here to urge New Mexico’s Catholic bishops to
• -Use their vast resources to more aggressively seek out others who may have been hurt by two New Mexico clerics, and
• -Permanently post on their websites the names of all credibly accused predator priests.
We also want to urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered other clergy sex crimes and cover ups in New Mexico to come forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start recovering. Finally, we’re asking Santa Fe’s archbishop to write to his colleagues in the Philippines to warn them about one predator priest who was recently deported after serving time in jail.
Last month, a convicted Catholic pedophile priest who spent 15 years at 16 New Mexico churches was deported. And in late March, a Catholic brother – who was sent to NM after molesting in Louisiana - was targeted in a civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit suit filed in Santa Fe.
In both instances, we believe New Mexico’s Catholic officials – especially the state’s three bishops – should aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by the two men. And we want those bishops to permanently post on their websites the names, photos and whereabouts of dozens of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics.
The recently-deported man is Fr. Jose Superiaso, a diocesan priest. The recently-sued cleric is Brother Samuel F. Martinez, who belongs to a religious order called the Christian Brothers.
Superiaso served prison time for molesting in California. Martinez faces three other accusers.
In both cases, there are plenty of excuses bishops can use to do little or nothing:
--Martinez is not our problem. He’s a Christian Brother.
--He’s in a nursing home so not likely to be molesting now.
--He hasn’t been convicted so we can’t be sure he’s guilty.
--Superiaso is not our problem. He’s out of the country now.
--We don’t exactly know where Superiaso is now.
--We’ve written Philippine bishops about him.
All of this, however, is hair-splitting. Caring officials would do all they can to warn parents and the public about potentially dangerous child molesters – no matter where they’re living or what their health is allegedly like.
This is the kind of action we want – tangible, effective steps to help ensure that more kids aren’t sexually violated. I doesn’t matter who signs a predator priest’s paycheck or who his technical supervisor is. If he has spent time in or near a bishop’s territory, then it’s that bishop’s duty to help seek out others he may have hurt and warn others who may now still be vulnerable.
According to a Boston-based independent research group called BishopAccountabilty.org, there are almost 50 publicly accused New Mexico child molesting clerics (8 in Gallup, 3 in Las Cruces and 38 in Santa Fe/Albuquerque.) The actual number of NM pedophile priests is likely much higher because BishopAccountability.org lists only those clerics against whom allegations have been lodged in the public domain – in civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution or news accounts. Helping Catholics, citizens and prospective employers more easily find out about these predators is the “bare minimum” bishops should do. It’s a cheap, simple, and easy way bishops can help kids be safer, help victims get healed and help honor their pledges to be “open” about pedophile priests.
In 2002, Tucson and Baltimore became the first US dioceses to disclose predators’ names. Now, mostly thanks to concerted pressure from groups like ours, roughly two dozen bishops have posted such names.
Superiaso is believed to be in his native Philippines. Martinez is believed to be at a nursing home in Lafayette, La. Neither is likely getting the monitoring and supervision that a proven or credibly accused child molester should be getting.
We want Archbishop Sheehan to prod his colleagues in the Philippines to warn their flock about Superiaso. Few families who are around him now likely know of his conviction in the US. We fear for their safety.