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.