Since the Archdiocese of Santa Fe released its first credibly accused list, and even now as it moves into bankruptcy over the financial fallout from decades of crimes, Catholics in Santa Fe have had to grapple with the knowledge of past abuses and learn to move forward both as congregations and as individuals.
"I was so mad, so horrified, I was ready to walk out," Jenny Barrera of Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community Church tells SFR. "But then I had a real come-to-Jesus moment within myself and I realized that the priests are not the reason I come to church—I come for God."
Barrera is near tears as she says that at the time, she experienced both a deep sense of betrayal from the church and a heightened sense of isolation from the non-Catholic community after being verbally attacked for continuing to practice her faith.
Since then, her congregation has come together to support one another. "We don't have to feel ashamed to talk about it or ask questions, and this is important," she says, "because I was really concerned about closed ranks and secrecy around this issue before."
When SFR asks Cristo Rey Catholic Church parishioner Barbara Martinez how she wants the church to respond to an allegation of abuse, she says she would want the priest to be immediately removed. The ultimate credibility of the accusation, she says, can only be known by God, but "there is no reason for [the priest] to stay if he can't be what he is supposed to be. Because they are supposed to be the examples who we're supposed to follow."
This sentiment is echoed by Vicky, another member of Cristo Rey Catholic Church who didn't want her last name published. "[Priests] are there as a symbol of people's faith, and so for them to cross that line and still be preaching to other people about what's right and wrong, it's the worst thing," she says.
When it comes to determining the facts of an allegation, she says the church and the courts should work together. "The list of the accused should be published. It should be made accessible to the public without people having to go look for it." (See page 14.)
After mass at Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Community last weekend, Joseph Macejka enjoys a few minutes of sunshine with his two teenagers. He is quick to point out that abuse is a problem in many different parts of society and not just within the Catholic Church, and equally quick to condemn abuse within the church as particularly heinous, considering the role of moral leadership that the church is supposed to play.
"It should have never happened in our church. We are all appalled by this and we are all invested in correcting it, making sure there's transparency. Personally, I want to make sure that my children are safe in their environment to practice their faith without any atrocity of this kind ever happening again," he says.
Macejka also says that the church has an opportunity to show moral leadership in how they handle the problem. "If we take responsibility and action immediately, if we work together with total transparency to make sure there is justice for those who were harmed and to educate the parishioners and hold the guilty parties accountable, and finally, if we can find a way to come together within our congregations in forgiveness and love—well, you can't change the past, but I think the church can be a guide and a model to the rest of society in how to move forward from this."
Maria Garcia lives in Española but attends Our Lady of Guadalupe Church when in Santa Fe to visit her daughter. She tells SFR in Spanish it is not up to her to question how the church is handling this issue, but in response to the question of whether it is important to know if a priest who has been accused in another diocese had ever worked in Santa Fe, her daughter pipes up: "Absolutely."