New Mexico’s three Roman Catholic dioceses have begun the process of turning over thousands of records related to priest sex abuse and cover-up.
In early September, Attorney General Hector Balderas gave church leaders in Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Gallup a month to produce decades’ worth of documents, and that deadline has come and gone.
"All three New Mexican Catholic dioceses have produced some of the documentation that was requested," said David Carl, spokesman for the Attorney General, in an email. "It is the opinion of the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General that those disclosures have, to this point, been insufficient. The Attorney General therefore requests that the Dioceses expedite the remaining production."
Much of the delay is due to sheer volume, said Deacon Jim Winder, Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese of Las Cruces. But he said they’ve also had confidentiality concerns, because the AG’s office had said they’d make all the records public.
“We have no problem providing what they're asking for," said Winder. "But the Attorney General's office has said that they'll release all the information we give to the public. And the problem with that is they’re asking for even private medical records of the priests, and we can’t do that without breaking other state and federal laws."
Winder said the AG's office this week agreed not to release that kind of private information, giving them the "green light" to start scanning documents.
He said the Diocese of Las Cruces expects to release a total of 100,000 pages of documents, starting with about 10,000 next week.
The AG's demand to the Diocese of Las Cruces mentioned just two priests by name. Only about five percent of the records to be released deal directly with individual priests, said Winder; the rest include financial records, documentation of trainings and policies on addressing sexual misconduct.
By contrast, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe names nearly 80 men as being "credibly accused" of sexual abuse, and the AG is demanding records related to these men and more. The ADSF did not respond to a request for comment.
Attorneys for the Diocese of Gallup, which wrapped up a bankruptcy settlement with survivors in 2016, wrote to the AG that "the bankruptcy process was extremely thorough and required disclosure and investigation of much of the materials you are requesting."
A spokeperson for the Diocese of Gallup wrote in an email that the diocese is "absolutely willing to cooperate with the AG’s investigation" but that they were unable to provide many documents that were sealed by a federal court ruling during the bankruptcy process.
The Diocese of Gallup maintains a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct, along with their assignment histories, as part of the settlement agreement.
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