Former Priest Sentenced in Sex Abuse

Associated Press, carried in The Arizona Republic [Arizona]
September 19, 2004

A former Roman Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to two felony counts of sexual conduct with a minor in Winslow was sentenced last week to a year and a half in prison in New Mexico.

James M. Burns, 71, of Wickenburg, was sentenced as part of a plea agreement. The charges stem from incidents that occurred two decades ago, when he was assigned to the Diocese of Gallup, which oversees northeastern Arizona.

"I was a good priest," Burns told Navajo County Superior Court Judge Gloria J. Kindig. "I failed a few times."

In announcing her sentence, Kindig castigated Burns for a lack of remorse and statements he made that she believed tried to shift blame on the victim.

"I can't quite get my head around what you're sorry about," she told Burns.

Burns was originally charged with four counts stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred in 1983 and 1984 at St. Joseph's in Winslow, where he was a priest.

A criminal complaint alleged he molested and engaged in sexual contact with a boy near a park and in the church rectory.

The victim, who has sued the Diocese of Gallup, first reported the abuse in 2003.

A Gallup diocesan review board reported in 2003 that Burns "had multiple allegations of sexual abuse made against him" while serving as a priest. He underwent treatment at a now-defunct facility but was returned to the ministry in 1990.

Burns was removed from priestly duties in 1993.

In response to Burns' sentencing, the Diocese of Gallup issued a statement apologizing "to the victims of juvenile sexual abuse by clergy."

"We stand by our solemn promise to the Catholic people of northwestern New Mexico and northeastern Arizona that we will continue to do all we can to protect our children," the statement said.


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