Published in the Gallup Independent, Gallup, N.M., Dec. 23, 2014
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
GALLUP — When the Diocese of Gallup publicly released its list of credibly accused sex abusers last week, it failed to include the names of four former Gallup priests who had previously been identified as abusers by other Catholic dioceses or religious orders.
Diego Mazon had been publicly confirmed by an official with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Harry R. Morgan and Laurence A. Florez had been identified by the Diocese of Phoenix, and Justin Weger had been identified by his religious order, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers.
“The investigation into names and the process of adding to the list has not ended,” diocesan spokeswoman Suzanne Hammons said in an emailed response to a question about the discrepancy. “Bishop Wall mentioned in his letter that ‘The publication of these additional names does not mean that our vigilance and continued investigation ends here. The investigations remain ongoing.’”
Hammons did not explain what further investigation could reveal about four men who have already been identified as credibly accused sexual abusers by other Catholic officials.
Diego Mazon is a Franciscan friar living at a retirement facility run by Albuquerque’s Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 2005, Mazon was named as a defendant, along with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and Cincinnati’s Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, in a clergy sex abuse lawsuit (D-202CV-200503804) filed in Albuquerque’s district court. The lawsuit claimed that Mazon had sexually molested a young Hispanic girl in St. John’s Parish in Roswell in the 1970s.
Mazon was working in the Diocese of Gallup when the abuse survivor came forward, and diocesan officials removed him from ministry at Gallup’s St. Francis Church. Parishioners were not informed of either the allegation or the lawsuit; instead they were told Mazon was stepping down because of ill health. In 2009, Annette M. Klimka, the victim assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, confirmed that church officials had reached a settlement with the female abuse survivor in 2006.
Mazon was also recently listed as being credibly accused in U.S. Bankruptcy Court documents. James Stang, the legal counsel for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, stated the Diocese of Gallup “has admitted there are credible allegations of sexual abuse against members of the Franciscan Friars, (i.e. Fathers Charles Cichanowicz, Julian Hartig, Diego Mazon) …” in a motion filed Oct. 30.
In addition to working at St. Francis in Gallup a decade ago, Mazon worked at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament in Fort Defiance, Ariz. from 1991-94, and at St. Joseph’s in San Fidel, N.M. in 1978, according to the Official Catholic Directory.
Morgan and Florez
Harry R. Morgan and Laurence A. Florez were two longtime Gallup priests who transferred to the Diocese of Phoenix when that diocese was created in December 1969. In 2012, the Phoenix Diocese publicly released its own list of credibly accused sex abusers, and both Morgan and Florez were — and still are — on that list.
Gallup Bishop James Wall, a former Phoenix priest, served as vicar for priests in the Phoenix Diocese under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. It is not known why Wall hasn’t relied on information about Morgan and Florez that Olmsted released two years ago.
According to the Official Catholic Directory, the Gallup chancery always assigned Morgan to its parishes in Arizona. Morgan worked at St. Joseph’s Church in Winslow, Ariz., in 1954, St. John the Baptist in St. Johns, Ariz., from 1955-58, St. Pius X in East Flagstaff, Ariz., from 1959-63, and St. Joseph’s in Williams, Ariz., from 1964-69. Morgan also served as the Diocese of Gallup’s Family Life Director from 1961 to 1966.
Later, while Morgan was working for the Diocese of Phoenix in Fountain Hills, Ariz., he was arrested Feb. 17, 1975, and charged with molesting a 9-year-old boy. In August 1975, Morgan pleaded no contest in Maricopa County Superior Court, and two months later, Judge C. Kimball Rose sentenced him to 10 years probation.
During Florez’s years in the Diocese of Gallup, he worked at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Flagstaff, Ariz. in 1960, the Santo Nino Parish in Aragon, N.M., in 1961-62, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Holbrook, Ariz., from 1963-64, St. Mary’s in Kingman, Ariz., in 1965, and St. John Vianney in Sedona from 1966-69. Florez and the Diocese of Phoenix were later named in a clergy abuse lawsuit in Arizona in 1993.
Weger and more
Earlier this year, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers released a comprehensive list of 19 current, former and deceased members of their religious order who have credible allegations against them. Two Crosier priests who worked in the Gallup Diocese, Timothy Conlon, O.S.C. and Justin Weger, O.S.C., were included.
Although the Diocese of Gallup’s recently released list included Conlon, it did not include Weger.
According to the Crosiers, Weger worked part-time for the Gallup Diocese in 1974-75, providing weekend assistance in the diocese’s Arizona and New Mexico parishes. He was removed from ministry in 1976.
The addition of Mazon, Morgan, Florez and Weger would push the Diocese of Gallup’s list of credibly accused abusers to 34 priests and one lay volunteer. That number, however, still does not include Brother Mark Schornack, O.F.M. and the Rev. James Lindenmeyer, who were both named as alleged abusers in clergy abuse lawsuits filed in Arizona before the Diocese of Gallup filed its Chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
It also does not include five reported Franciscan friars — Ephrem Beltramea (listed as Ephraim Beltremea), Eugene Botello, Crispin Butz, Finnian Connolly and Clementin (listed as Clemetine) Wottle — who were named as alleged perpetrators by confidential claimants in the bankruptcy case.
If all those alleged abusers are eventually determined to be credibly accused, that will drive the Diocese of Gallup’s list up to more than 40 men.