One-hundred sixty-five clergy sex-abuse cases have nearly bankrupt the Diocese of Santa Fe since Archbishop Michael Sheehan took over the diocese three years ago and removed 20 priests. Though the amounts of settlements are sealed and victims have been sworn to secrecy, Sheehan estimated in 1993 that the sex-abuse cases might cost the diocese $50 million. Estimates made by victims’ rights groups foundz that the settlements probably averaged between $20,000 and $50,000. The diocese, which had to make up the difference in the amount not covered by insurance companies, has sold property and has wiped out the savings of individual church parishes to avoid bankruptcy.
Former Archbishop Robert Sanchez had been accused of sexual misconduct by three women before resigning in disgrace. In a deposition, Sanchez said he was not aware that sexual abuse was a crime.
Pedophile priests from around the country have been sent to a treatment center in Jemez Springs, but, instead of returning home after treatment, many were reassigned to New Mexico parishes where they continued their abuse of children. The diocese’s 190 priests are now more carefully screened and must participate in seminars on pedophilia. Ten cases remain unsettled.