Twelve lawsuits filed recently in Arizona charge that the Roman Catholic bishop of Gallup protected alleged pedophile priests by assigning them to pastoral duties in small parishes for more than two decades.
Robert E. Pastor of the Phoenix law firm of Montoya, Jimenz & Pastor said the lawsuits were filed in Coconimo County on behalf of 10 men and two women, who were minors when they were allegedly molested in Arizona by priests from the Diocese of Gallup. About two years ago, he said he filed a similar lawsuit, on behalf of a man, which is set to go to trial in February.
“That first case came to me and, like a lot of people, you think, ‘Well, that’s just one bad priest. There can’t possibly be any more’ — even though we know about Boston, we know about L.A., we know about Milwaukee, and, lo and behold, what do we find out?” Pastor said. “That there were many priests in the diocese of Gallup and we know why — because the bishop of Gallup was picking his priests from the sex-offender treatment center there at Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and that’s got to be one of the poorest decisions anyone’s ever made.”
The Rev. James Wall, Gallup’s bishop for the last four years, did not respond to a message seeking comment, but issued a pre-prepared written statement though the diocese’s media liaison, the Rev. Tim Farrell of Farmington. The statement says that while the diocese can’t comment on pending litigation, Wall prays for the victims of abuse and urges anyone who has experienced misconduct by any official of the church to contact law enforcement.
“There can be no dispute that the diocese has extremely limited resources and may not have the financial wherewithal to continue to investigate and attempt to compensate victims of criminal sexual misconduct claims,” the statement says. “It is public knowledge that many dioceses with resources far greater than the Diocese of Gallup have been forced to consider and/or file bankruptcy in the face of mounting clergy-abuse lawsuits.”
All 13 complaints seek damages from the Diocese of Gallup for allegedly covering up molestations of children from the 1950s through the early 1970s in the Arizona towns of Holbrook, Flagstaff, Winslow, Kingman and Humbolt. The clerics accused of the molestations include: the Revs. William Allison, John T. Sullivan, Clement Hagerman and Raul Sanchez; Brother Mark Schomack; and Monsignor James Lindenmayer. All but Sanchez are believed to be dead; Sanchez is believed to be living in Mexico. Wall said in his statement that the diocese had never before heard charges of sexual abuse against Lindenmayer or Sanchez, but did not address the other four priests.
Pastor said at least three different men served as the Gallup diocese’s bishop during the time addressed in the lawsuit.
“We’re talking about the office of the bishop covering all of this up and certainly that cover-up continues today because Bishop Wall refuses to disclose information about these priests and the history of abuse that has occurred within the diocese,” he said.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.