3 More Gallup Priests Id'd As Accused Abusers
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
July 31, 2012
The number of publicly accused clergy sex abusers from the Diocese of Gallup recently increased from 16 to 19.
In court documents in the Clement A. Hageman “Route 66” priest abuse lawsuit, Robert E. Pastor, the plaintiff’s attorney, named two more Gallup priests — one deceased and one absent from ministry — as being alleged sexual abusers. A third accused priest’s name was found in related church records.
In a court document dated June 13, Pastor included a chart, featuring the names of five priests, which illustrates his belief that the Diocese of Gallup “engaged in a pattern and practice of assigning pedophile priests to poor rural towns of Northern Arizona.” Three of the priests, Hageman, John T. Sullivan, and James M. Burns, have been acknowledged by Catholic officials as being pedophiles. The other two priests, Samuel Wilson and Raul Sanchez, have never been publicly accused of abuse before.
In a recent telephone interview, Pastor said he represents a number of other clients who allege they were sexually abused by either Hageman, Wilson or Sanchez. Although Pastor has filed only one Hageman-related clergy abuse lawsuit against the Gallup Diocese, he said the diocese is aware of his other clients’ allegations.
While comparing Pastor’s chart to the Official Catholic Directory’s record of priest assignments, the name of another credibly accused abuser from Gallup surfaced. Laurence Florez, whose first and last names are sometimes misspelled as Lawrence Flores, also served in the Diocese of Gallup’s Arizona parishes before transferring to the newly created Diocese of Phoenix in 1969. Florez, who is deceased, was accused of sexual abuse in Phoenix and was the subject of a lawsuit.
All three priests were ordained for the Gallup Diocese: Wilson in May 1952, Florez in May 1959, and Sanchez in December 1974. In his 33 year career, Wilson was bounced around to about 20 rural parishes, mostly in Arizona and New Mexico, including assignments on the Navajo and White Mountain Apache reservations and a number of small Hispanic communities. Wilson died in 1986.
Florez worked in Aragon, another rural parish where a significant number of credibly accused abusers have been assigned, as well as four parishes in northern Arizona before transferring to the Phoenix Diocese.
The Official Catholic Directory shows Sanchez only working in one parish, Madre de Dios in Winslow, before teaching in a diocesan seminary program in Gallup and then becoming an Air Force chaplain. Although the Diocese of Gallup continues to list Sanchez as one of its priests, a recent diocesan directory lists Sanchez as “absent” and “out of the diocese.” He is reportedly living in Mexico.