Brian Gutierrez began serving as an altar boy at age 7, and for many years, he said, “I really did believe I had the faith and the calling to be a priest.”
That was before he was raped in 1986 by Sabine Griego, who was a pastor at Queen of Heaven Parish in Albuquerque, he said.
“I wanted to find out how to become a priest, and I was looking for him to help me with the vocation,” Gutierrez said.
He was 17 years old then. Now a 46-year-old engineer, he has brought a civil lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Gutierrez says the archdiocese had known of sexual abuse by Griego going back decades.
Gutierrez originally was known in the lawsuit as John Doe C.
Ken Wolter, a 34-year-old handyman now living in Michigan, was referred to as John Doe D in a separate lawsuit. Both decided to reveal their real names Wednesday.
They said they did so in the spirit of Spotlight, the movie opening Friday in Santa Fe about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in Boston.
Their attorney, Brad Hall, said the decision was “a big thing,” given the psychological pain they have been in for so long. They want the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Archbishop John Wester to follow their example and come clean about what happened. Hall said their feeling is, “Let’s just drop all the John Does and the confidential orders so the public can heal as well as the individuals.”
Trials in both cases are scheduled for next summer. Hall said he has seven other trials on his calendar for next year.
“Whether we settle between now and then or not, the movie previews have made us want to shine the spotlight on all secrecy in this state,” Hall said.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has settled about 300 molestation cases since the 1980s “without having to disclose any documents which might impact how the church is viewed in all these Northern New Mexico communities and in our state’s culture,” Hall said. The archdiocese, he said, has never publicly disclosed the names of the 53 priests who were accused. In contrast, the Diocese of Gallup has posted all such names on its website.
Gutierrez said in his complaint against the archdiocese and Queen of Heaven Parish that he was directed by his family to seek out Griego when he started classes at The University of New Mexico in 1986. He said he found that there were a number of teenage boys hanging around the rectory, “drawn in part by the ready access to beer and camaraderie.” He said Griego raped him after one such night of drinking.
Gutierrez said when he asked Griego about vows of chastity, the priest told him there was “wiggle room” and that “priests and their altar servers had a way of ‘helping each other out.’ ”
After the abuse, Gutierrez said, his grades dropped and he left school. According to his suit, he felt hatred and disgust for the Church and authorities. Later, he said, he had his own problems as a parent and with managing his anger.
According to Gutierrez, when he first reported the rape to the archdiocese, he was told that Griego was dead. He later learned that was not true. Griego, who was suspended from the priesthood in 1992 and worked briefly as a hospital chaplain and psychologist with the state Corrections Department, lives in the Las Vegas, N.M., area, Gutierrez said.
A previous case settled by the Church and reported in The New Mexican involved similar abuse by Griego of a 13-year-old boy from Our Lady of Sorrows in Las Vegas. The child’s mother allowed him to live with the priest in the rectory of Queen of Heaven Church during his senior year of high school, where he later said the abuse continued.
Wolter said he was abused dozens of times beginning in 1991, when he was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Bernadette Parish in Albuquerque. He said his abuser was Art Perrault, a prominent priest from Connecticut who had been treated for sexual disorders at New Mexico’s Servants of the Paraclete in the late 1960s, according to a complaint filed in 2014 against the archdiocese, St. Bernadette Parish and the Servants of the Paraclete. By the early 1990s, the archdiocese was already aware that Perrault had abused boys in the Upward Bound Program and as a parish priest, Wolter said.
Perrault was a top liturgist, wrote columns for the archdiocesan newsletter and once taught ethics at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque. He was sent to Canada for further treatment in 1992 and then disappeared. Some believe he is living in Bali, and Hall said Perrault still receives a pension from the U.S. Air Force, in which he once served as a chaplain.
Wolter said he continues to suffer from severe emotional distress, and only last year he began receiving professional mental health counseling.
The two men said they have come forward to put the spotlight on what happened to hundreds of other New Mexico children in what was once the epicenter of the priest abuse scandal, mainly because the Servants of the Paraclete became a repository for pedophile priests who often were subsequently assigned to parishes in the state. Their flocks knew nothing about the priests’ crimes.
“To date there has been no spotlight in New Mexico,” Hall said in a statement. “To the contrary, the lights remain off, even though, like they say in the movie about the supervisors of these priests: ‘They knew, and they let it happen. And it could’ve happened to any of us.’ ”
Contact Anne Constable at 986-3022 or email@example.com.