ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A longtime Catholic pastor announced Sunday to his stunned parishioners that he is a “whistle-blower” who has privately assisted victims of clergy sex abuse and is assisting in an investigation of clergy sex abuse.
During Mass at St. Therese of the Infant Jesus Parish and Catholic school in Albuquerque, Father Vincent Paul Chavez announced he has been assisting the attorney general’s office, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
Chavez said he made the announcement after learning the planned construction of a new cafeteria for his school would have to be postponed because the Archdiocese of Santa Fe was seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Archdiocese officials cited the financial burden of priest sex abuse litigation.
Chavez said his “active work” to help survivors and their attorneys “with knowledge, documents and strategies” began decades ago when a victim of priest sexual abuse came to him after attempting suicide.
Chavez said he arranged for the man to receive psychological therapy, and he encouraged the mother of the family to write a story of the abuse of her children by “a notorious monster of a priest” from Connecticut.
“He was the priest that would keep live piranha in fish tanks and further terrorize the kindergarten-age boys by threatening after a sexual molestation if they told anyone what just happened he was going to stick their fingers and hands into the fish tanks,” Chavez said.
Celine Radigan, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, did not immediately respond to an email.
Chavez said he learned on Saturday that the planned construction was being postponed.
“This is most disgusting to me. Your decision sickens me,” Chavez said he wrote back. “This project has been in the works for a long time. None of the monies have been borrowed or loaned from the archdiocese.”
Chavez on Sunday voiced strong support for current Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester, whom he called a “brave shepherd.” But Chavez said he realized the impact his public statements.
“I expect to be in great trouble for this presentation/homily with the church after I read it at Masses this morning — even my job, position and livelihood are in jeopardy,” he said.
New Mexico’s largest Catholic diocese has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent months on lawyers to fight claims of clergy sex abuse and to prepare for a potentially lengthy battle in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.