A former altar boy at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish has come forward, alleging that a priest molested and raped him for several years beginning in 1985.
The San Miguel County man is among three new plaintiffs alleging sexual abuse at the hands of the now-deceased Rev. Michael O’Brien.
The local plaintiff is identified only as John Doe 3. He is in his early 40s and is married and has children, according to a lawsuit filed in state District Court in Albuquerque last week.
The lawsuit alleges that the abuse took place during the time that O’Brien, or Father Mike, was assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, here in Las Vegas. Among the claims is that the archdiocese and Our Lady of Sorrows failed to prevent the sexual abuse despite the fact that they knew or should have know O’Brien’s history as a pedophile priest.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Our Lady of Sorrows Parish.
Celine Baca-Radigan, the communications director for the archdiocese, declined to comment, saying that policy is not to comment on pending litigation. A woman who answered the phone at Our Lady of Sorrows on Wednesday said the parish would not be commenting on the suit.
The two other recent suits stem from O’Brien’s time as a priest at St. Anthony Parish in Questa and his time as a priest at San Francisco de Asis Parish in Ranchos de Taos.
The first suit was filed in early April and also related to O’Brien’s time in Questa.
The suits were filed by Albuquerque attorney Brad D. Hall, who is working with Portland, Ore., attorney Kelly Clark on the cases.
“These stories are all similar to the first case we filed — and similar, sadly, to cases filed all over the country for the last decade, in that we have men who, as boys, were groomed and betrayed by a priest they trusted in a church they loved, a church fully aware of the systematic child abuse problem in its midst that failed for decades to take steps to address the problem, or to warn parishioners of these dangers,” Hall said in a news released issued Tuesday.
Added Clark, “What often happens is that victims spend decades believing that ‘I was the only one,’ and then, when they learn that they were not alone in their abuse, they are empowered to speak up about their own experiences.”
The allegations contained in the lawsuit brought by the San Miguel County victim are particularly troubling. The suit alleges that he was “groomed” as a child and then sexually molested and raped for years starting in 1985. The boy is said to have been about 15 when the abuse began.
“The grooming and abuse began with what Fr. O’Brien called ‘massage time’ for tight muscles, and escalated to the point that Fr. O’Brien committed many counts of criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual penetration against plaintiff, including use of ‘special’ massage oil said by the priest to be blessed by the Pope,” the lawsuit alleges. “Some of these crimes occurred on ski trips and field trips to places like the Grand Canyon.”
According to the complaint:
O’Brien was assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows in the mid-1980s, after working in parishes in Taos, Mora and other Northern New Mexico communities. O’Brien was assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows “well after the archdiocese knew or should have known about his troubling relationships with boys in other New Mexico communities.”
The complaint contends that O’Brien sexually abused the San Miguel County plaintiff when he was a boy and after O’Brien “had abused numerous other boys in other northern New Mexico communities.”
The archdiocese moved O’Brien to Our Lady of Sorrows after troubles surfaced in Taos County.
After coming to Las Vegas, O’Brien convinced the plaintiff’s parents to allow him to be an altar boy.
“Plaintiff’s parents trusted that plaintiff would be safe from harm caused by sexual predators like ‘Father Mike’ while on the premises of Parish of Our Lady of Sorrows, and while on trips and pilgrimages with the priest...,” the suit alleges.
The suit alleges that although the abuse occurred in the mid-1980s, the damages inflicted amount to a lifetime’s worth of emotional harm and turmoil.
“Plaintiff could not and did not fully articulate what occurred to him as a boy until recent months, and is only now with the help of professionals beginning to realize and connect the harm caused him by the actions of defendants in sheltering and housing a pedophile priest,” the complaint states.
It also alleges that despite the known danger pedophile priests posed to children, the archdiocese and Our Lady of Sorrows not only placed known or likely pedophile priests into parishes, but they deliberately chose to conceal the fact of the priest’s problems from parish communities.