Letter to the Editor
of the Albuquerque Journal
On Boston Clerical Sexual Misconduct

February 7, 2002

Bill Hume
Letters to the Editor
Albuquerque Journal
PO Drawer J
Albuquerque, NM 87103

Dear Editor,

You have given considerable coverage to the Boston clerical sexual misconduct controversy. It seems appropriate for me to comment the way in which we have dealt with a similar situation in our recent history in this Archdiocese.

As was reported, some years ago we had a number of priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors here in the Archdiocese. These men have been removed from priestly ministry and restricted so that they are not permitted to exercise any public ministry whatsoever; nor to wear the clerical collar. They are in effect fired because of the harm that they have done to victims and their families. The Archdiocese has a policy of zero tolerance for anyone guilty of pedophilia.

We reached out to the victims providing psychological counseling and settling the cases. I also personally apologized to each victim whose phone number and/or address was available to me.

We have adopted strict policies regarding acceptance of future candidates for the priesthood. Those who apply must undergo a physical and psychological examination; as well as an AIDS test and police background check. In addition they must provide letters of recommendation from employers and their pastors as well as all past academic performance. I personally interview each candidate who applies, after our Vocation Director has had numerous interviews with the candidate. We presently have 21 fine candidates in the seminary who have gone through these requirements and show great promise as priestly candidates.

We have a Permanent Review Board in place so that we can be ever vigilant about any accusations of misconduct. We are committed to reporting to the proper authorities any credible suspicion that a priest or other church worker has molested a minor. Also, no priest from elsewhere may celebrate Mass, or work here, without presenting credentials from his own bishop or religious superior showing that he is in good standing.

All priests, deacons and lay workers - volunteers as well as hired staff - must take the required Sexual Abuse/Harassment Prevention Workshop that we offer regularly in the Archdiocese. Literally thousands of people have taken these classes that focus on the seriousness of this matter.

This local church has done everything to renew and to restore the trust of our people. In fact, there is great life in the Church and the number of registered Catholic families in the Archdiocese have increased by over 17,000 households in the last few years. I have ordained 23 new priests and another 10 will be ordained within the next few years.

I have been open to any inquiries from the media since my arrival as Archbishop in 1993. The recent Roman Norms regarding Vatican involvement with these kind of cases deal with what long term penalty the Church courts may wish to impose. We will continue to follow the policies set in place upon my arrival. We pledge to be ever vigilant in the future so that the rich spiritual message of the Church might be proclaimed.

Sincerely yours in the Risen Lord,
Most Rev. Michael J. Sheehan
Archbishop of Santa Fe