The Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the head of Santo Niño Regional Catholic School have acknowledged they didn’t immediately report concerns to police about an incident in April between a student and a health aide, but both Principal Robin Chavez and the archdiocese issued statements late last week denying Chavez told an investigator she had been directed by the Roman Catholic institution not to notify law enforcement.

Chavez has said 30-year-old Robert Apodaca was placed on leave after another employee said she found him in a dark room with a boy on his lap. He resigned soon after. In July, he was arrested on three felony charges of molesting a student at Gonzales Community School, where he previously worked as a health aide. He has not been charged in connection with any allegations at Santo Niño.

In a Friday email to parents, Chavez wrote, “Let me clearly say that at no time was I ordered not to report this incident.”

She repeated the claim to at least one set of parents in a discussion Sept. 8.

According to a recording of the meeting, which parents provided to The New Mexican, Chavez referred to a news story on state police Officer Eric Jackson’s initial report into a complaint from the boy’s parent.

Jackson interviewed Chavez at the school April 29, according to a redacted version of his report provided by an attorney. The report cites allegations of criminal sexual contact of a minor and enticement of a child.

“Mrs. Chavez informed she contacted the office of the Archdiocese and was informed not to contact Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) nor Law Enforcement, as it did not yet rise to that level of notification,” Jackson wrote.

He added: “As of the time of my interview no contact to any department had taken place nor did it appear any contact would be made.”

In the recorded interview with parents, Chavez said, “We have no control over what they [news media] infer or what they want to write. But I can tell you that at no time was any direction or conversation given not to report.”

Chavez said she and Annette Klimka, the victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, were in the process of preparing to report the incident to police when the officer arrived at the school.

“There are confidentiality rules that I have to follow when there’s a personnel matter,” she told the parents, according to the recording. “And that’s not directed to me by the archdiocese. … It is a typical response to an employment matter we cannot disclose, especially if there’s a police investigation possibly going on.”

A two-page document posted Friday on the archdiocese’s website outlines Apodaca’s history at the school, from his hire in August 2019 and initial background checks to his arrest in July.

The document cites the April 23 incident: “In an after-school group, Robert Apodaca (RA) was found by a staff member with several students around his desk as they watched a movie on his laptop. The door appeared to be locked, but the door had been problematic previously and was pending repair. A child opened the door when staff member knocked. The staff member ‘thought’ she saw a child on RA’s lap. The staff member witnessed no indications of sexual abuse. However, both the lights being off and child on lap is against school and ASF policy.”

The staff member notified Chavez of the policy violation April 26, and the principal informed the child’s parent April 28.

Jackson arrived at the school to speak with Chavez a day later.

“The principal attests adamantly that she was not ‘ordered’ to not report the incident as was reported in the Santa Fe New Mexican,” the archdiocese wrote in its post. “This is likely a lack of clarity in communicating with the investigating officer. As the officer reported, there was no crime evident.”

Parents have held protests at the school and have circulated a petition calling for Chavez to step down over her silence on the issue. They say she didn’t provide them with any information about the investigation into Apodaca at Santo Niño or his arrest on unrelated charges until Sept. 3, when she sent an email in response to news reports on the allegations.

Amid rising tensions, Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a disruption at the school Sept. 8. According to a sheriff’s office report, parents of a student there became disorderly and told Chavez she should resign. The parents withdrew their child from Santo Niño that day. They have not been charged with a crime.

State police have provided little comment on the investigation — other than to say it is ongoing — and have not yet provided reports or video of Jackson’s interview with Chavez, in which she discussed her decision not to notify police of the incident.

In an email this week, state police Lt. Mark Soriano confirmed the information in Jackson’s report is accurate.

When he interviewed the boy and his family, the officer wrote, the boy said he had sat on Apodaca’s lap numerous times and that Apodaca would take him alone on “rounds” throughout the school, including to a storage room on campus and a roof-access area. The boy said Apodaca told him to “keep it a secret,” according to Jackson’s report.

The boy also said Apodaca allowed him to play on an iPad, and that he felt uncomfortable sitting in the man’s lap but did not speak up about it.

Jackson wrote in his report the boy was scheduled for a safe house interview — a forensic interview of a child conducted at the request of the Children, Youth and Families Department or law enforcement — which occurred April 30.

Leslie Radigan, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, wrote in an email this week the school will host a training at the end of the month in collaboration with Santa Fe-based Psychotherapy and Pastoral Counseling Associates in response to the series of events surrounding Apodaca.

“ASF will cooperate with an investigation if law enforcement deems one is warranted,” she added.

Chavez wrote in her email to parents Friday she’d heard from some of them about the need for more communication. “While I very much agree that there should have been some communication, I will reiterate that there are legal constraints on what I may share about employment matters,” she wrote.

“In response, I will work with parents, law enforcement and legal counsel to create a communication plan for letting parents know when issues of concern arise that will meet the privacy requirements that we must adhere to,” the email continued.

Santa Fe Public Schools also has been addressing parents’ concerns about allegations of sexual abuse by Apodaca.

Last week, Gonzales Community School hosted a virtual meeting with parents.

“We responded quickly and started planning for the discussion as soon as we learned of this individual’s harmful behavior,” Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez wrote in a recent bulletin. “I’m extremely sorry that this has occurred and determined to ensure that we never again experience such reports in our schools.”

(31) comments

Emily Hartigan

FYI, antiCatholics:

Breitbart reports this today: -"--A second city near the Texas border is scrutinizing a charity run by the Catholic Church for releasing COVID-19 positive migrants into their community."

Wow, those wicked Catholic Charities. I've given a fair amount to them in Texas, but also in NW New Mexico. Those awful Catholics, helping the indigenous and refugees .

Stan Biderman

Yep, not tolerant of the institution of Catholicism, the screeching of the Imams, the Evangelical preachers, or the Rabbis who claim they are not Americans but Jews waiting for the messiah. Not tolerant of any of them. But they are calling the shots in our country, which is supposed to be secular. And for their power and divisiveness they scare me.

Emily Hartigan

Stan, they chose not to post my reply to you - I suspect I know why. But I want to retrieve two pieces:

First, on this of all days, I apologize for and mourn the tragedy your family endured.

Second, the idea that there is no salvation outside the Church is officially a heresy. Much of what you hear from Catholics is neither true nor loving. But they are not the Church. Even Pope Francis, with his generous heart, is not the Church. No tradition (including secular ones) should be reduced to its most unfortunate adherents, or any single voice.

Blessings to you, and a time of peace and teshuva in the grace of a loving cosmos.

Stan Biderman

Thanks Emily. My experience is different from yours. I see the forced conversions and killings of the natives and others around the world as as crimes against humanity. And missionaries interfering in peoples lives continues today. Why can't religions respect th right of others to live their own truth? PS After 15 years living in NM, I consider myself a member of the Jewish tribe, not the Jewish religion. I think that may fit for many Catholics and Muslims also.

Emily Hartigan

Stan, again, we need to ask forgiveness today, and so I do.

And forced conversions are so two-to-five centuries ago. I don't mean to be flippant, but the scandal of the conversos is simply not now. Now is fraught. Palestinians?

Today, Yom Kippur, is a day to contemplate, and move forward in love.

Andrew Lucero

This anti-Catholic rhetoric is disgusting. There is no difference between being anti-Catholic or anti-Semitic, anti-gay or anti-immigrant… Hate is Hate. Prejudice is prejudice and it should not be tolerated in this forum!

Prince Michael Jauregui

Mr. Lucero, as I've taught for years: "Truth, most-often is quite disturbing". You know what's really disgusting Mr. Lucero? The sexual-abuse of innocent children for DECADES. The cover-up by church "leaders". Untold millions and millions of dollars donated by good people trying to be charitable and give, only to have funds paid to countless lawyers and victims.

You're certainly should be deeply disgusted - like so many others. Be blessed, sir.

Stan Biderman

Dear Emily--

my Father's family was killed in the Holocaust. Virulent anti-Semitism led by the Catholics led to the villainizing and hatred of the Jews. Catholics have been using Jews as scapegoats for over 1000 years. Your own kids continue to be abused by your church. Why do you need a mysogynistic cult to lead you to God?

ps I have no more tolerance for orthodoxy of any cult, whether Christians, Jews or Muslims. Its more about control than about spirituality. All bad for our country. and terrible for my granddaughters.

Emily Hartigan

Stan, on this of all days, I apologize for and mourn your family's tragedy.

But you listen to the wrong people about my faith.

That "outside the church there is not salvation" has been an official heresy for a long, long time. Lots of Catholics don't know that. They also drive me crazy, as does this blasphemous attempt to deny Communion (Pope Francis said he has NEVER denied it to anyone). But even your grandparents tradition has its terrible sins. Every one does, including atheism (Stalin, Mao, Hitler) and secularism. No tradition, including rationalism, is a monolith.

I, like Biden, Pelosi and Stephen Colbert, believe that our personal beliefs about abortion should not dictate law for such a deeply contested issue. We are practicing Catholics.

Please stop vilifying our faith.

Ishmael Maes

Ms. Hartigan, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” or, “outside the Church there is no salvation.” is in fact a teaching of the Catholic Church and is not heresy. Grab a Catechism and start reading at paragraph 830 to get the full correct context of this doctrine. Here is a precise and thorough article on this doctrine

I highly recommend, if you proclaim to be Catholic, that you properly inform yourself on the teachings of the Catholic faith lest you proclaim heresy and become a heretic yourself.

Emily Hartigan

You are wrong.

Please consult the fate of the infamous Father Feeney who persisted in the heresy of "outside the church" and was finally excommunicated.

Ishmael Maes

Ms. Hartigan, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the official teaching of the Catholic Church. To speak contrary to the official teaching of the Catholic Church is heresy, heresy is proclaimed by heretics. If you don't have a Catechism I suggest you acquire one, in the meantime here is a link that you can use as the Catechism can be accessed free, online.

Again, please reference the CCC to get the FULL CONTEXT of this doctrine, less you continue to spew heresy.

""Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336"

Stan Biderman

Catholics as victims? Now there's a laugh!

Emily Hartigan

Anti-Catholicism was one of many sins of the Third Reich.

Ishmael Maes

It is unfortunate that Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable form of prejudice, evidenced here by the posts in the comments section. Could you imagine if someone typed in all caps to end Judaism or Islam? I’m sure comments of that nature would immediately be removed by a moderator. I thought Santa Fe was a city that embraced and was committed to diversity and tolerance?

Prince Michael Jauregui

Mr. Maes, you do realize this article revolves around the latest victim of sexual abuse committed by an employee of the Catholic "Church" - one of thousands victimized. Prejudice? No, anger. Read, the headline. More importantly read The Holy Bible. Be blessed Ishmael - beautiful name, sir.

Ishmael Maes

Mr. Jauregui, do you realize my comment was directed towards the comments in the comment section? I completely understand that an individual who worked for a Catholic school is accused of committing a horrendous act, an individual who was also a public school employee prior to his employment at a Catholic school. I wonder why I don't see comments like "end public schools" in here. Sexual abuse is a cancer that needs to be amputated from society. Mr Jauregui the Anti-Catholic sentiment is thick in the comment section, do you honestly believe a true follower of Christ would commit such a heinous act? Would you leave Jesus because Judas betrayed him? All will be held accountable for their actions and inaction's during their exit interview, and yes sir I do read the Holy Bible, but under what authority is the Holy Bible the Word of God? Mt 7:3-5 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” God bless!

Stan Biderman

You may have misread my post. I'm anti all orthodox religions that believe their way is the only way. And all who elevate only men to the top positions. I listen to Catholic radio. They talk about what is a good exorcism or a bad one. And discuss abortion but not the pederasty of the thousands who have been sexually abused and covered up by your holy institution. This is insanity in the purest form. I also condemn the orthodox rabbis and the imams who cover up their misdeeds. But they have no centralized mind control like the Vatican. Diversity doesn't justify an institution whose loyalty is not to our Constitution but to a Pope.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Mr. Maes, I appreciate your defense of your Religion, but again: Public Schools have not amassed fortunes and influenced millions, while falsely claiming to be "The Church of St. Peter". A 1700-year-old organization espousing "Holiness" cannot be held to the same standard of Public Schools nor any other organization. Reportedly Archdiocese after Archdiocese has filed bankruptcy because they KNOWINGLY allowed, and some cases covered-up DECADES of abuse - unlike any other organization.

So, you essentially utilize The Word of God (St. Matthew 7:3-5) to defend an organization that paid millions of dollars in donated money to DECADES of victims of Sexual abuse by it's "Priests"? Besides, the Holy Scripture your tried to manipulate is referring to Hypocrisy.

Finally, I'll leave you with Holy Scripture that every single Catholic should deeply consider: "And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon my rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" The Book of St. Matthew 16:18.

With thousands of sexual abuse victims, cover-ups by wicked "leadership" and millions upon millions of Church-goers donations paid to lawyers and victims, immutably and for all eternity, we know what "Church" that The Most Holy and Risen Christ King Yeshua was NOT claiming. Without question, "The Gates of Hades" prevailed, EXCEEDINGLY. Be blessed Mr. Maes - "And The Truth shall set you free".

Ishmael Maes

Mr. Jauregui, my comments are not a defense of the Catholic Religion, I was merely pointing out the prejudice of the comments in the comment section. Mr. Jauregui, it is apparent in all of your self contradicting comments regarding Holy Scripture that you either have a poor understanding of Holy Scripture and or distort its meaning to portray yourself as self righteous. This whitewashed veneer of false piety is obvious. You tell people to read the Holy Bible, and proclaim Jesus as Christ the King, yet you call Jesus a liar when you proclaim what he said was not true. These are your words "Without question, "The Gates of Hades" prevailed, EXCEEDINGLY". You say Jesus was incorrect or did not know what he was talking about when you proclaim this statement and if you that is true, then your faith is in vain. Sir you need to accept the Truth, all of the Truth, whether it fits your narrative or if you like it or not, for the Truth is always the truth, it never changes or contradicts itself or ceases to exist or it would not be the Truth. Peace be with you.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Congratulations Ms. Pollard, for your excellent piece.

For over a decade, I've exposed and confronted "Corporate Christianity" as the modern-day Pharisees and Businesses that operate like "Churches" that they've been for over a century in the U.S. - Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Baptists and other massive denominations. All teaching, "Man-made Doctrine", as forewarned by The Most Holy and Risen Christ King Yeshua. Nonetheless, I pray for all my Christian brothers and sisters who have fallen prey to any deceptive "Church" indoctrination.

Thus, between Catholic hierarchy and trigger-happy NM State Police? Neither, can be trusted - confirmed.

Andrew Lucero

It seems to me, neither the Archdiocese or Mrs. Chavez are very credible...

Raymond McQueen

“Mrs. Chavez informed she contacted the office of the Archdiocese and was informed NOT (my emphasis)to contact Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) nor Law Enforcement, as it did not yet rise to that level of notification,” Jackson wrote. HMMM!!

Despite all of Bishop Wester's atonement services and apologies, nothing has changed in these criminal syndicates called the Roman Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

As has been said many times before:

S A V E T H E C H I L D R E N ~ E N D C A T H O L I C I S M

Stan Biderman

Raymond—Hard to end a 1700 year old empire that makes the mafia look like amateurs. All orthodox religions are enemies of a secular republic.

Emily Hartigan

Anti-Catholicism is so old.

It's a deep prejudice, and the virulent emotionalism of these posters indicates that it's alive and well.

Of course, the Catholic Church as done horrible things, and their agents have. And I have yet to find any human institution that has not.

So, kinda kicking and yelling, I was led back to the Church that professes Love, and probably practices it about as much as any human belief system. Raging secularism included.

It's about the Mystery of Love. Not your self-congratulatory judmentalism. As Jesus said, judge not. Just love.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Whew. Where do start here? I fast-forward past your "...these posters" generalizations

to concur with your statement, "...I have yet to find any human institution that has not".

Still, the only problem with your broad and sweeping statement? Most institutions, have not amassed obscene fortunes and global influence - while claiming The Holy Spirit, The Holy Family and The Christ King Yeshua - big difference.

"The Mystery of Love"?? The True and Living YHWH IS Love. Mystery? Finally, you pull-out classic Catholic "Bumper Sticker" theology misusing the words of the Christ King "Judge not, lest you be judge". Be clear: If it walks like a charlatan, talks like a charlatan and acts like a charlatan, it's a -Surprise!- Charlatan. This in no way, is being "Judgementalism", rather Truth. So, Ms. Hartigan, I would highly recommend you leave behind your Sunday Morning exercise in Catholic Doctrine, and find a Bible-based church. The smaller, independent congregations can sometimes be filled with The Holy Spirit.

I commend you for efforts, however mislead. Be blessed, Emily.

-Surprise- Charlatan!

Prince Michael Jauregui

Ms. Hartigan, I certainly was not calling you a charlatan. Bad editing, on my part. Be blessed, Ma'am.

Emily Hartigan

And you be blessed.

It's not your Church, and from the outside you can only anthropologize it. False judgment.

I personally see YHWH as Love also. But not exclusively. What some call G-d is multilingual, and we are merely human.

Recently, I was graced to participate in a community process that included learning a new name for G-d, from an indigenous tradition. A blessing. We need to learn what affirms, rather than seek to condemn, for others.

In the Catholic tradition, mysticism has always held that we can't know. So, I pretty much doubt that you can, either.


Prince Michael Jauregui

Ms. Hartigan, can we imagine how much time, money and resources my ancestors gave to the Catholic Church over the last -at least- 200 years? Personally, by my early 20's my spirit could sense something untrue about the "church". By my mid-30's, after nearly a decade of bouts of intense study of The Holy Bible, my attendance to mass was sporadic at best. As time when on, the "church" made it easy - it left me. Amen and amen, forevermore.

Richard Vinet

The Catholic church as victim? That's outrageous! This institution has hid and protected perverts and even murders in their ranks for hundreds of years, all the while wrapped in sanctimony and self righteousness. And love? And their lack of judgement? Come on! Barring Islam, they are the most most controlling, rigid, close-minded, and intolerant of religions. Look what they are currently trying to do to President Biden. It's not even about what he has done or hasn't done. It's about mind control.

Emily Hartigan

Richard, Biden is a Catholic.

So is Pelosi.

And Colbert.

WHY to people think they can use sweeping judgments about a diverse tradition?? Judge your own belief system, please, first.

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