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Other abuse by Porter alleged in N.M.

By Stephen Kurkjian and Linda Matchan, Globe Staff, 7/24/1992

In 1992, the Rev. James R. Porter case in Fall River brought the problem of clergy abuse into the open.  
Coverage of the Porter case
ames R. Porter, who has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of children while a Roman Catholic priest in Massachusetts and Minnesota, also molested about a dozen boys at a New Mexico church where he had been assigned even though he was undergoing treatment for pedophilia at a church-affiliated center, according to an Albuquerque lawyer.

Bruce E. Pasternack, a lawyer and specialist in child abuse cases, said he would file suit today on behalf of three men allegedly molested by Porter in 1968 while he was serving at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish in Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Pasternack said yesterday that he has learned that Porter worked for the parish during the summer of 1968 when the parish priest took a brief leave of absence. At the same time, Porter served as acting chaplain at a local hospital, where he was caught sodomizing a child in a body cast, Pasternack said.

In 1967, Porter had been sent by the Diocese of Fall River to a treatment center run by the Servants of the Paraclete, a Roman Catholic order, in Jemez Springs, N.M., after repeated complaints by parents that he had molested their children.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which had jurisdiction over both the treatment center and Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, stated last week that it did not know if Porter had been officially assigned to any churches while he underwent treatment between 1967 and 1969. If Porter had been assigned to any parishes, a diocese official told the Globe, it was on an unofficial basis and he would not have been allowed to administer the sacraments, such as baptisms, hearing confessions and performing marriages.

However, Pasternack stated in a release that he has been told that Porter was assigned to the parish with full "faculties," which would allow him to perform all official functions.

Almost immediately on being assigned to the parish 120 miles south of the Paraclete center, Porter began molesting altar boys and other children in the community, Pasternack said in his statement. "This abuse ranged from fondling to attempted sodomy to repeated acts of sodomy," Pasternack said.

The boys, most of them Hispanic and between seven and 10 years old, were molested at various locations in and around the church, Pasternack said, including the rectory and the sacristy.

Pasternack said he learned of Porter's activities in Truth or Consequences when several of the alleged victims, learning of Porter's conduct elsewhere, approached Pasternack recently and asked that he represent them. He filed a lawsuit last week in connection with a complaint that Porter abused two others in New Mexico.

Porter's alleged assault on the child at the hospital was witnessed by someone who informed Rev. John Miles, the priest on leave. Father Miles then notified the archdiocese, which immediately sent Porter back to the Paraclete center.

Under church rules, Porter's original diocese in Fall River would have had to have been informed of his assignment to the parish in Truth or Consequences. Diocesan officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, but last week they refused to say whether they had been notified of and approved Porter's transfers while he was being treated at the Paraclete center.

Officials at the Paraclete center also have refused comment. However, a former pastor at an Albuquerque church, which was within 2 miles of the halfway house where Porter at times lived, said he often used priests being treated at the center to perform nonofficial functions in the late 1960s.

Porter, now married and the father of four children and living in Minnesota, admitted in a statement last week that he had molested youths until he left the priesthood in 1974. The statement was triggered by the disclosure last week that more than a dozen persons were allegedly abused by Porter while he was assigned to a parish in Bemidji, a small town in northern Minnesota, in 1969 and 1970. Porter had been accepted as an assistant pastor after an official of the Paraclete center attested that he had been "cured" of his problems, which were never identified.

With increasing attention being focused on Porter's stay at the Paraclete center, state officials in New Mexico told the Globe last week that they soon would begin an investigation of the center's operations. It was not licensed by the state, even though hundreds of priests are treated there for a variety of emotional and psychological problems, including pedophilia, an abnormal condition in which an adult has a sexual desire for children.

Until the mid-1970s, the center was for the most part a treatment facility for priests suffering from work-related and alcohol abuse problems. However, since there were no church-affiliated hospitals or clinics that dealt with sexual problems, Porter and other priests like him were also sent there, according to Dr. Jay Feierman, a psychiatrist who has treated Paraclete patients for several years.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 7/24/1992.
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