One-time altar boy claims 3 priests in Alamogordo molested him
SANTA FE — A former altar boy, now a man of 34, alleges in lawsuits that three priests at St. Jude Parish in Alamogordo molested him for years.
The plaintiff, Eran Joseph McManemy, also says the Catholic church’s hierarchy knew that one of the priests had been sexually abusing boys since the 1960s but did nothing to stop him.
This priest was the Rev. David A. Holley, who left a long trail of molestations at churches from Worcester, Mass., to ones in New Mexico and Texas.
Finally, in 1993, Holley was sentenced to 275 years in prison for sodomizing and molesting eight other boys in Alamogordo. He died in prison in 2008 at age 80.
The other two priests that McManemy identified as his molesters at St. Jude were the Revs. Daniel Barfield and Wilfrid Diamond.
The chancellor of the Diocese of Las Cruces, which has jurisdiction over St. Jude Parish, said he had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it. A call seeking comment from the Diocese of El Paso was not returned. Holley worked in El Paso parishes in the early 1970s, accumulating molestation complaints long before he eventually met McManemy in Alamogordo.
Merit Bennett, one of McManemy’s lawyers, says church leaders did not notify police or prosecutors when they learned that Holley had molested boys.
Instead, Bennett said, a cover-up occurred and Holley was moved along to the next unsuspecting parish, where he could prey on more boys. The church practiced this indifference to Holley’s pedophilia starting in Massachusetts and continued it when he moved west, Bennett said.
He said this enabled Holley to rape McManemy in approximately 1990. In the lawsuits, filed Monday evening, McManemy says Barfield physically restrained him while Holley carried out the rape.
“The damage done to him is very insidious,” Bennett said of McManemy. “He is in therapy and has been for the last couple of years.”
Since the early 1990s, Bennett said, he had handled 100 to 150 cases in which people alleged molestation by priests or other adults while they were children. Each one was settled before going to trial, but the victims were scarred for life, he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s recovered from it,” Bennett said.
McManemy was a child of 9, living with his grandparents, when they moved to Alamogordo and joined St. Jude Parish in 1987.
McManemy became an altar boy for Diamond, the parish priest. He says Diamond began molesting him almost immediately.
“The abuse occurred several times each week until Father Diamond eventually retired in or about 1988,” McManemy’s lawsuit says.
Barfield received an appointment as pastor of the parish in approximately 1990. McManemy says Barfield also sexually and physically assaulted him.
McManemy says he was not abused by a priest who served in between the tenures of Diamond and Barfield.
Diamond, according to the lawsuits, had a long history with Holley in Alamogordo.
“In mid-1975, Holley was invited by Diamond to assist Diamond at the St. Jude Mission, then under the supervision of the Diocese of El Paso,” the suits say. Holley’s association with Diamond would last for almost four years during the ’70s.
One family complained that he had sexually molested their son, but no action was taken against Holley by the Diocese of El Paso, according to the lawsuit.
“Instead, Holley was made an assistant pastor at the Catholic Church of St. Raphael in El Paso,” McManemy’s lawsuits allege. “… Of course, Holley promptly sexually molested one or more children at St. Raphael…”
The Diocese of El Paso transferred Holley to its Church of Our Lady of the Valley. He molested more young boys there, Bennett said. Then Holley was transferred to a church in San Angelo, Texas, where the pattern of molestations continued.
Bennett said the church knew Holley was a pedophile, for it had sent him for treatment at a center in New Mexico run by the Paraclete order.
Bennett said the church was aware that these programs would not cure or stop a pedophile priest, but it assigned Holley and other child molesters to new parishes anyway.
McManemy, unlike many who say they were victims of sexual assault, decided to file the lawsuits using his real name.
Bennett said McManemy believed that identifying himself was a necessary step in his attempt to heal, and because he wanted to confront the church for its misdeeds.
Lawsuits allege sex abuse by ex-Cathedral principal
Three men recently filed separate lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former Cathedral High School principal and a priest in Las Cruces, according to court records.
Two of the lawsuits named as defendants Brother Samuel Martinez, the El Paso Catholic Diocese and the NOSF Inc. (New Orleans-Santa Fe District), formerly Brothers of the Christian Schools of Lafayette, La.
One of two lawsuits involving Martinez alleges religious leaders used the Sangre de Cristo Retreat Center in Santa Fe to hide priests who were accused of assaulting or molesting minors, instead of reporting them to the authorities.
The other lawsuit, which is against the El Paso Catholic Diocese, the Las Cruces Catholic Diocese and Our Lady of Health Parish in Las Cruces, involves a former priest identified in the court records only as “Santiago.”
“We were told that he (Santiago) is deceased and was a Franciscan friar from Mexico,” said S. Clark Harmonson, an El Paso lawyer who represents the plaintiffs in all three lawsuits.
A plaintiff referred to in court records only as “L.A.,” was a minor when he allegedly was abused by Santiago at the Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla Park, N.M., where Santiago lived and which was then the retreat center for the El Paso Catholic Diocese.
“On information and belief, Santiago abused other boys at Our Lady of Health Parish,” court records said. “The Diocese of El Paso knew or should have known of the sexual abuses of L.A. by Santiago and or the dangerous sexual propensities of Santiago.”
“L.A.,” who was an altar boy in 1978 when the alleged abuse occurred, is seeking a jury trial in connection with the allegations.
All three plaintiffs claimed that they suffer from severe emotional and psychological distress, and seek compensation for treatment.
No official was available at either diocese on Wednesday to comment on the allegations, and neither was anyone available at NOSF Inc., in Lafayette.
In the other two lawsuits, the plaintiffs identified as “John Doe” and “B.C.” alleged that Martinez abused them.
John Doe alleged that he was a student in 1970-71 in New Orleans at a school operated by the former Christian Brothers Schools in New Orleans (NOSF Inc.), a Catholic order that provided education in Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Colorado.
Martinez, who was a Spanish teacher then, allegedly “repeatedly sexually abused John Doe at the Christian Brothers School, according to court records, and that “Martinez sexually abused other minors before and after the time he abused John Doe.”
Around the same time that John Doe allegedly was abused, another minor boy, John Doe II, also a student at a Christian Brothers School, accused Martinez of abusing him as well.
“Martinez admitted to the principal that he touched John Doe II inappropriately,” court records said, and that the order he belonged to (NOSF Inc.) sent Martinez to the Sangre de Cristo Retreat for 100 days.
No further investigation was conducted to determine whether Martinez had abused other children before he was transferred to Cathedral High School in 1972. He was appointed the principal of Cathedral in 1976 and held that position until 1985.
Cathedral is a top private Catholic high school for boys in the El Paso region.
The Brothers of the Christian Schools, District of New Orleans-Santa Fe (NOSF Inc.), was under contract to run the school at the time.
“During his tenure at Cathedral High School, Martinez abused many other minor boys,” court records alleged. “When numerous reports of abuse surfaced in the early 2000s, Brother Martinez was again secreted to Santa Fe, where he was placed under a written ‘Safety Plan’ which curtailed (his) access to children.”
Harmonson said that church officials again failed to report the allegations to police.
“B.C.,” one of the plaintiffs, alleges that Martinez abused him in 1980 when he was a freshman at Cathedral High School.
The De La Salle Christian Brothers Provincials of the United States-Toronto Region is closing its Sangre de Cristo Center in Santa Fe in August, according to an announcement on the order’s website at sangredecristo.org.
In January, the El Paso Catholic Diocese settled for $1.6 million a previous lawsuit involving Martinez that two former Cathedral students had filed.
“We’ve heard that Martinez is in Louisiana now and is very ill with cancer,” Harmonson said.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6140.