Before "Spotlight": 60 Minutes on priest sex abuse

"Spotlight" won big at the Oscars; take a look at Mike Wallace's landmark 60 Minutes story on sex abuse in the church

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When "Spotlight" won the Oscar for best picture last night, the scourge of sex abuse in the Catholic Church took center stage. But it's a problem the Church has been wrestling with for decades.

In the groundbreaking 60 Minutes story above (which aired in 1993 and was updated in 2002), Mike Wallace reported on Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sanchez was accused of covering up for pedophile priests in his archdiocese -- and having sex with young women himself.


Wallace interviewed several victims, now adults, who described being coerced into sexual encounters with priests.

"Apparently the collar puts them above the law," said Susan Sandoval, who said Father Robert Kirsch forced himself on her when she was 15. "If you did it, if I did it, if we molested children, it's criminal, isn't it?"

Wallace famously chased down Father Kirsch during a 10-mile pilgrimage to ask about the allegations. Other priests at the scene tried to shield Kirsch from the cameras. He told Wallace, "You guys are harassing me." Kirsch died in 2005.

Marlene Debray-Nowak told Wallace she complained to Archbishop Sanchez three times that her 10- and 12-year-old sons, Tom and Mark, were being fondled by Father Arthur Perrault. Yet, over the years, the archbishop promoted Father Perrault to head the largest parish in the state.

"The tragedy of it is, sir, that we did not know until recently that this didn't happen two or three times. This happened 25 or 30 times, sir, in my home," she told Wallace. "But my son, Tom, did not tell me this until he was 29 years old, and I thought I'd fall out of my chair. They protected them, sir -- they protected the priest because he was a priest."

Eventually, an avalanche of lawsuits hit the New Mexico courts, charging numerous priests there with child abuse. The lawsuits included allegations that Father Arthur Perrault abused at least six more children after Debray-Nowak had reported him to the archbishop.

Debray-Nowak told Wallace she held Archbishop Sanchez responsible. "He is the honcho, the boss," she said. "And his job is to protect the children, among other things."

At the time, the church itself estimated that more than 100 children were abused by about 20 priests in New Mexico. Attorney Bruce Pasternak, who represented the victims, told Wallace the actual number of victims was probably much higher. "New Mexico became a center for the accumulation of the world's pedophile priests," he told Wallace.

He explained that Servants of the Paraclete, a small order of priests, ran a home in New Mexico to rehabilitate pedophile priests. Over the years, many of those priests went to work in the Archdiocese of New Mexico when their treatment ended.

Archbishop Sanchez was accused not only of shielding wayward priests, but committing transgressions of his own -- having sex with three women when they were teenagers.

Judy Maloof told Wallace she was 19 when Sanchez took her virginity. "That wasn't all he took," she said. "I mean, one of the outcomes of my affair with him was within a few months after he terminated the relationship, I lost my faith."

Sanchez, who died in 2012, resigned just two days before the 60 Minutes story ran. In a statement at the time, he acknowledged having a relationship with the women. "I realize that these allegations have caused pain for all who now know of them," it said. "I can and do ask publicly for your forgiveness, as I have of my God."