Balderas said the safety assessment report will examine any cover-ups and make recommendations to prevent abuse.
He said the document release is “fast tracking this safety assessment of what went wrong.”
“In New Mexico, we're also doing a national review, because New Mexico is a dumping ground for many of these priests, they evaded jurisdiction in other states. As soon as we expedite that, we will then be producing that information to all your requesters," said Balderas.
Paul Linnenburger, an attorney representing a sex abuse victim, used a state law governing inspection of public records to seek the diocese’s records.
“This seemed like the perfect instance to be able to open the door so that the people of New Mexico could finally learn the true extent and what it is that happened here,” Linnenburger said according to Eyewitness News.
Balderas said he initially wanted to protect the records from abuse victims’ attorneys in case they could be used for criminal prosecution. He later decided to hand over the Diocese of Las Cruces records.
CNA sought comment from the Santa Fe archdiocese but did not receive a response by deadline. The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2018. At the time, Archbishop John Wester said there were between 35-40 active sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese. Today, there are at least 400 active claims.
In October 2017, following a judge’s order in response to a request from KOB-TV, the Santa Fe archdiocese released court records related to sex abuse allegations against three Catholic priests.
The documents were related to three priests “credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors” in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the archdiocese said. Among the documents were hundreds of pages of court records that concern allegations against the clergy. They included letters indicating that Church leaders knew of sex abuse allegations that had been made against three priests.
Arthur Perrault, a former Catholic priest later convicted of sexually abusing priests in the 1990s, served in the Santa Fe archdiocese from 1973 to 1992. Prior to that, he had been accused of molesting minors as a priest in Connecticut. In 1965, Perrault had spent time at a treatment center for sexually abusive priests run by the Servants of the Paraclete religious order in Jemez Springs, N.M.
In 1966 he was released from the treatment center after a psychologist recommended him for a teaching position at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque.
Nearly 40 people have come forward claiming to have been victims of Perrault and a mother of a young man has claimed he committed suicide after abuse by the priest.
In April 2021 CNA reported that the Santa Fe archdiocese intended to sell over 700 properties by late July to help pay for sex abuse settlements.