"Route 66" Clergy Abuse
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
July 31, 2012
GALLUP — Now that the Diocese of Gallup has settled the three clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed against it in the Navajo Nation’s courts, it is left to fight the “Route 66” priest abuse case in Arizona.
That civil lawsuit, filed nearly two years ago in Flagstaff’s Coconino County Superior court, was brought by Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor on behalf of an Arizona man who claims the Rev. Clement A. Hageman sexually abused him as a child. The plaintiff, in his 70s, served as an altar boy for Hageman in Holbrook’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in the early 1950s. Hageman died in Winslow in 1975.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has dubbed Hageman the “Route 66 Priest” because at least a couple dozen adults have come forward during the past decade claiming Hageman sexually abused them during the 35 years the Gallup Diocese assigned Hageman to Catholic parishes along Route 66: from Thoreau in New Mexico to Holbrook, Winslow and Kingman in Arizona. According to Pastor, Hageman also abused children when he was briefly assigned to Arizona parishes in Camp Verde and Humbolt.
In court documents, the Diocese of Gallup has conceded Hageman was a sexual predator and mostly likely abused the plaintiff as claimed.
“Gallup does not dispute, and will stipulate that, in hindsight, Fr. Hageman had an aberrant sexual propensity to commit the sexual abuse,” diocesan attorney Keith Ricker wrote in a motion dated April 30. Ricker added that “more probably than not, Fr. Hageman sexually abused” the plaintiff in 1952.
But despite that concession, the Hageman lawsuit grinds on, marked by a number of in-court and out-of-court battles over issues such as who should properly be named as defendants, access to diocesan financial information, possible limits to deposition witnesses, and who should rightly determine the length of therapy for abuse victims. Thus far this year, one battle was won by the Gallup Diocese’s co-defendants, another was won by Pastor and the plaintiff, and a couple more have yet to be decided.
At the beginning of the year, Superior Court Judge Mark R. Moran dismissed the Diocese of Corpus Christi and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe as co-defendants in the case, leaving the Diocese of Gallup as the primary defendant. The two Catholic dioceses had initially been named as defendants because Hageman came to the Gallup Diocese by way of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, where he was ordained in 1930, and by way of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, whose bishop sent him to the newly formed Gallup Diocese in November 1940.
In February, Moran ruled on the contentious issue of whether the plaintiff has the right to obtain financial information about the Diocese of Gallup.
Ricker, a Scottsdale attorney who represents the Gallup Diocese along with Albuquerque attorney Robert P. Warburton, had filed a motion for protective order on behalf of the diocese last summer after Pastor had subpoenas served on three Arizona banks in an effort to obtain information about the diocese’s financial status and bank accounts.
“Plaintiff has not established a factual basis for his claim for punitive damages against the Diocese of Gallup,” Ricker argued in the motion, “and is therefore not entitled to such financial information.”
Ricker and the diocese also objected to Pastor’s requests for a number of diocesan documents, including Quinquennial Reports since 1940, which are reports Catholic dioceses submit to the Vatican every five years, audited financial records since 1940, all diocesan finance committee documents since 2000, all liability insurance policies, all documents regarding money the diocese has received from funds and foundations since 2000, and all bank account statements and financial investment documents since 2000.
In his response to the court, Pastor said the Diocese of Gallup’s “decision to assign a known sexual predator like Clement Hageman to the parish in Holbrook where he would be in contact with children is the type of conscious disregard for a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm that a jury may find punitive damages appropriate.”
Ruling for the plaintiff, Moran wrote, "The Court concludes that the Plaintiff has met his burden of presenting clear and convincing evidence that a reasonable jury could find that the Defendant possessed an evil mind when they breached their duty to the Plaintiff,” Moran said.
Thus far, the Diocese of Gallup has yet to produce the requested financial documents. Instead, Ricker filed another motion for protective order in April asking Moran to limit Pastor’s access to deposition witnesses and severely limit the scope of deposition interviews. Moran heard oral arguments on that motion earlier this month.
The Diocese of Gallup’s finances have been central to another brewing dispute in the case — this time an out-of-court dispute.
On May 21, Deacon Jim Hoy, the Gallup Diocese’s chief financial officer, sent a letter to an Arizona therapist who has been providing mental health counseling for two of Pastor’s other clients, also alleged abuse victims of Hageman. In the letter, which Pastor publicly released with the names of his clients and the therapist redacted, Hoy informed the therapist that the diocese was cutting off therapy funds for the victims.
“It is the policy of the Diocese of Gallup to help with counseling for individuals but the Diocese does not have the financial resources to make open-ended commitments to pay for counseling,” Hoy wrote. “Due to its financial constraints, the Diocese has had to put a cap of $2,000 per claimant on what it can contribute toward the cost of counseling.”
On July 10, Pastor responded with a letter to Warburton, the diocese’s Albuquerque attorney. In the letter, Pastor claimed the Gallup Diocese also refused to allow the plaintiff in the Hageman lawsuit to complete therapy, and he chided Gallup’s Bishop James S. Wall for failing to honor the promises of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to restore the bonds of trust with victims of clergy abuse.
“Bishop Wall’s decision ordering Deacon Hoy to terminate much needed counseling for survivors of clergy sexual abuse is another breach of trust,” Pastor said. “The letter from Gallup’s Chief Financial Officer, his reference to Gallup’s financial resources and its insurance policy limits is yet another example of the Roman Catholic Church putting its financial interest ahead of the spiritual and emotional well being of God’s children.”
Pastor, who is a practicing Catholic, cited the words of Jesus in his concluding paragraph: “As a decent human being I implore you to speak with your client and ask Bishop Wall to let victims of clergy sexual abuse finish the counseling they need based on the advice and recommendations of trained therapists; not the Diocese of Gallup’s Chief Financial Officer, Deacon Hoy. I trust you will do what is right and decent if for no other reason so that a large millstone does not hang around the neck of the Diocese to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).”
Requests for comments to the Gallup Diocese about Hoy’s actions were referred to the diocese’s Gallup law firm, Mason & Isaacson. None of the attorneys from that firm responded to the request. The diocese no longer employs a professional media spokesman. Lee Lamb, the most recent spokesman, ceased working for the diocese earlier in the year and has not been replaced.
Next: The Diocese of Gallup’s attempt to hand-select witnesses for the plaintiff’s attorney to interview.
Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola can be contacted at (505) 870-0745 or firstname.lastname@example.org