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Olivier Uyttebrouck, a writer for the Albuquerque Journals details in the following excerpt the sordid thirty-year story of Catholic priest and sexual predator Arthur Perrault:
St. Pius X High School leaders were hit with a “bombshell” in 1970 when they were told of allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. Arthur Perrault, a teacher at the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s flagship high school.
Those allegations remained secret for decades, but documents released this week pull back the curtain on how those school leaders and the archbishop responded.
And the documents show that, once again, a priest was simply moved to another post where he had access to new victims. They also show that Perrault was sent to St. Pius in the first place as a “good test period” to allow the archbishop to observe the 20-something priest after he was released from a Jemez Springs center that treated pedophile priests.
He was at the school four years and was later accused of molesting 11 victims during that period, from 1966-1970.
In 1970, St. Pius board members were approached by the father of a student, who asked to meet with them because “one of his sons that was at Pius had been involved with Father Perrault,” a board member recalled in a 1992 deposition. The father said that as a result of the abuse, his son “was so messed up that he had been thinking about suicide.”
The father, who is not identified in the deposition, said he discussed the abuse with then-Archbishop of Santa Fe James Davis. The allegations were electrifying, the board member said, because Perrault was chairman of the theology department at the archdiocese’s flagship high school.
“Look, we’ll take care of this but we can’t have any publicity,” Davis reportedly told the boy’s father. “We must be Christian about this.”
New details about the careers of Perrault and two other former New Mexico priests became public this week after a judge ordered the disclosure of nearly 1,000 pages of church records that had been sealed under a previous court order.
The records contain letters written by three archbishops of Santa Fe and other church officials, legal settlements, deposition transcripts, psychological reports and other records provided by the archdiocese to Albuquerque attorney Brad Hall, who has filed more than 70 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests.
Among them is the deposition of a former St. Pius board member whose name was redacted from the transcript.
The board member said that Archbishop Davis wavered about how to respond. He at first agreed to remove Perrault, but later changed his mind. “It’s under our control and it’s our problem. Not yours,” Davis told four board members.
The father who made the allegation warned the board member that if Davis took no action, he would file a “sodomy suit” against the archdiocese, according to the deposition.
The threat prompted the board member to seek a private meeting with the archbishop, where he told Davis that the archdiocese faced a lawsuit if Perrault remained at St. Pius.
“I remember to this day what Archbishop Davis did,” the board member recalled. “He put his right arm on my shoulder and said, `We can’t have that. I’ll honor my commitment.’” Three days later, Perrault was dismissed from St. Pius.
Davis then authorized Perrault to work as chaplain to the student community the University of Albuquerque, a now-defunct Catholic college operated by the archdiocese.
The incident at St. Pius was not the first time, nor the last, that allegations of Perrault’s sexual attacks on boys would reach the ears of an archbishop of Santa Fe.
Perrault had been accused of sexual attacks before he arrived in New Mexico in January 1966.
The Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., where Perrault was ordained in 1964, ordered him to undergo treatment at a facility in Jemez Springs operated by the Servants of Paraclete. The now-closed Via Coeli facility received priests from across the U.S. accused of sexually molesting children.
Perrault, then 28, was sent to Jemez Springs after “two alleged incidents of homosexual approaches to some of the young men with whom he was working,” in Connecticut, Via Coeli psychologist John Sanchez told Archbishop Davis in a 1966 letter.
Court records show that Perrault is accused of sexually abusing 38 children during his years in New Mexico.
Of those, 11 alleged attacks occurred during Perrault’s tenure at St. Pius High School from 1966 to 1970. The alleged attacks occurred at St. Pius, in Perrault’s home, or at two churches where he worked on weekends.
He has never been charged with a crime.
Letters written in the early 1980s show that later allegations against Perrault prompted then-Archbishop Robert Fortune Sanchez to order that he undergo a psychological evaluation.
That evaluation found that Perrault “acted out his homosexual orientation only with youngsters and has never had an ongoing, adult homosexual relationship,” psychologist Joseph VanDenHeuvel told Sanchez in a June 1981 report.
The psychologist said Perrault “made mention of the fact that he had `been in trouble’ because of illicit sexual activities with students,” VanDenHeuvel told the archbishop.
Just seven months after receiving the report, Sanchez assigned Perrault to a pastoral post at an Albuquerque parish.
“I am pleased herein to assign you to St. Bernadette Parish for weekend assignment to assist the pastor,” Sanchez told Perrault in a Jan. 6, 1982, letter.
“Thanking you, Father Arthur, for your service to the good people of St. Bernadette Parish, and to the Pastoral Center, while wishing you all the Lord’s Blessing throughout this New Year,” Sanchez wrote.
Perrault became the pastor at St. Bernadette in 1985 and remained there until he fled New Mexico in 1992, just days before an Albuquerque attorney filed a lawsuit alleging that he sexually assaulted seven children.
Perrault turned up last year in Morocco working at an English-language school for children, from which he was subsequently fired. It is not clear where he is now.
In early 2017, a judge handed down a $16 million judgment to one of Perrault’s victims. Olivier Uyttebrouck reports:
A judge handed down a $16 million judgment this week against a former New Mexico priest for failure to respond to a lawsuit filed by a man who alleges he was sexually abused by Arthur Perrault in the early 1990s.
Second Judicial District Judge Denise Barela-Shepherd handed down the default judgment Thursday after she found that Perrault had been properly served with the civil lawsuit, but failed to defend himself against the allegations.
She ordered Perrault to pay $1 million in damages and an additional $15 million in punitive damages. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Perrault, who vanished from his Albuquerque parish in 1992, was tracked last year to Tangiers, Morocco, where he was teaching at an English language school for children.
Perrault was fired in May when school officials learned of the allegations, the director of the American Language Center in Tangiers told the Journal .
Kenneth Wolter, 35, filed the civil lawsuit last year alleging he had been sexually abused by Perrault at least 40 times in the early 1990s. Wolter was 10 or 11 at the time, and serving as an altar boy at St. Bernadette Parish, where Perrault was the pastor.
Unknown is whether Wolter will be able to collect any portion of the $16 million judgment from Perrault, said Levi Monagle, one of three Albuquerque attorneys who represent Wolter.
“Money wasn’t the point of this for us,” Monagle said Friday. “Ken (Wolter) didn’t do this for the money. The message made on behalf of the victims was Ken’s main priority.”
Wolter testified at a hearing in January that he wanted to send Perrault a message on behalf of his 38 known victims “and the silent people who haven’t come forward.”
He asked Barela-Shepherd to award a total of $38 million in damages, or $1 million for each alleged victim. Barela-Shepherd did not explain in her order why she handed down a $16 million judgment.
Perrault, 79, sent Barela-Shepherd a letter in November denying that he had abused Wolter, court records show. He also said that he had no assets and could not afford to hire an attorney, or to return to Albuquerque to attend the January hearing.
Last Friday, a jury found Perrault guilty of sexually abusing an altar boy. Perrault was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In ordering the sentence, U.S. District Judge Martha Vazquez said it was the worst case of child sex abuse she has handled over the course of 26 years.
Prosecutors had asked the judge for special consideration of a life sentence for Perrault, once a pastor at an Albuquerque parish and a chaplain at Kirtland Air Force Base.
He was convicted in April of six counts of aggravated sexual abuse and one count of abusive sexual contact with a minor under 12.
“It is a long sentence but certainly a fitting one given the length of his conduct and devastating impact,” U.S. Attorney John Anderson said.
Perrault pleaded not guilty after he was returned to the U.S. from Morocco in 2017 and maintained his innocence at the sentencing. His defense team plans to file an appeal.
The abuse counts stemmed from the treatment of one boy at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque and at Santa Fe National Cemetery. The two sites are within federal jurisdiction, which allowed U.S. authorities to file charges with no statute of limitations.