New Mexico Man Settles Sex Abuse Suit Against Catholic Church

November 19, 2012

An Albuquerque, N.M. man has settled a suit he filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and a Catholic ministry group that helps troubled priests over molestation he claims he suffered at the hands of a priest beginning in the mid-1960s.

The attorney representing Clifford Esquibel told the Albuquerque Journal for a story in Saturday’s editions the diocese and the Servants of the Paraclete settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

Esquibel alleged the Rev. John George Weisenborn sexually molested him when Esquibel was a seventh-grade altar boy at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Albuquerque beginning in 1966 or 1967. He sued the church and the ministry last year.

Weisenborn was sent for treatment at a Servants of Paraclete facility in Jemez Springs called Via Coeli in 1964 after being detained three times in Washington D.C. for having sex with boys, according to court documents obtained from the priest’s former religious order.

The abuse began after Weisenborn resumed pastoral duties at Albuquerque parishes around 1966, the suit contends. Weisenborn was formally assigned to St. Francis Xavier in 1968 and served there into the 1970s. The lawsuit alleged that Esquibel was “plied with alcohol” and sexually molested by Weisenborn on several occasions at an Albuquerque motel.

The Servants of the Paraclete opened Via Coeli in 1947 to treat priests with alcohol and emotional problems. But almost immediately, the center began receiving priests who had sexually abused children.

Esquibel’s attorney, Brad Hall of Albuquerque, said he asked a judge to dismiss the case last week. The Archdiocese’s attorney, Arthur Beach of Albuquerque, confirmed Friday that the case “has been resolved” but declined to discuss details.

The Archdiocese and the Servants were the target of dozens of lawsuits in the 1980s and ’90s alleging that priests were molesting children. Many alleged that pedophile priests came to New Mexico for treatment by the Servants of the Paraclete and were then sent to churches around the state. The treatment center closed in 1995.

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