Two abusers from Phoenix order served in Diocese
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
June 6, 2017
GALLUP — A Phoenix-based religious order that sent two of its credibly accused priests to serve in Diocese of Gallup parishes has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The Crosier Fathers and Brothers Province filed a Chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Minnesota Thursday. The religious order, which has communities in Phoenix and Onamia, Minnesota, became the 18th Roman Catholic diocese or religious order to file for bankruptcy in the United States.
The Crosiers are being represented by Tucson attorney Susan G. Boswell and her law firm Quarles & Brady LLP, which served as the lead bankruptcy attorneys for the Gallup Diocese.
“The decision to file for reorganization was difficult, but given the number of claimants who came forward when the state of Minnesota opened the statue of limitations for asserting claims of sexual abuse, we believe a Chapter 11 reorganization is the only way that all claimants can be offered a fair and just resolution within the Crosiers’ limited financial resources,” Prior Provincial Thomas Enneking, OSC, said in a statement released Thursday.
With the filing, the Crosiers have approached their bankruptcy in a different manner than when officials with the Diocese of Gallup filed their petition in November 2013. Crosier officials have already worked out a $25.5 million dollar settlement plan with abuse survivors, they have reportedly agreed to publicly release the files of all credibly accused abusers, and they voluntarily released the names of abusive clergy several years ago.
“Sexual abuse survivors and the Crosiers have worked together to reach a framework for a $25.5 million dollar agreement to fairly compensate survivors of child sexual abuse by members and an employee of the Crosier order,” attorneys with Jeff Anderson & Associates said in a news release Thursday.
The St. Paul, Minnesota law firm, which represents clergy sex abuse survivors, said there are 43 sex abuse lawsuits pending in Minnesota against the Crosiers.
“We applaud the strength and courage of all of the sexual abuse survivors who have come forward and shared their truths,” attorney Mike Finnegan, of the Anderson law firm, said. “The Crosiers are doing the right thing by working with survivors in order to facilitate a transparent and fair resolution for everyone involved.”
Connection to Gallup
Crosier officials have twice released lists of credibly accused clergy sex abusers that included the names of two priests assigned to work in the Diocese of Gallup. In 2002, the Crosiers released a list of eight names, which included Justin Weger. In 2014, the Crosiers updated the list to include Timothy Conlon. The list currently includes the names of 20 credibly accused abusers.
According to the Crosiers, Weger provided weekend assistance substituting in Diocese of Gallup parishes from 1974-1975. Weger then worked at St. Mary Church in Sells, Arizona, the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation, from 1975-1976, before being removed from ministry in 1976. After leaving the Crosiers, he served as director of Tribal Lodge, Inc., a Native American organization in Phoenix, from 1977- 2002. Weger died in 2005.
“There were claims and lawsuits alleging sexual abuse against Justin Weger while he was a Crosier,” Crosier officials said in a statement in May 2016.
In spite of the Crosiers repeatedly naming Weger as a credibly accused abuser, officials with the Gallup Diocese have yet to include Weger’s name on their list of abusers.
In December 2014, Suzanne Hammons, a spokeswoman for the Gallup Diocese, was asked why Weger and three other priests had not yet been added to Gallup's list. All four men had been identified as credibly accused abusers by other Catholic dioceses or religious orders.
“The investigation into names and the process of adding to the list has not ended,” Hammons said in an email.
She did not explain what further investigation needed to be done. The Diocese of Gallup recently added the name of one of those men, Diego Mazon, eight years after an official with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe confirmed Mazon had been removed from ministry in Gallup as part of a sex abuse lawsuit settlement.
In contrast, officials with the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis added Weger’s name to their list in May 2014. Weger had been assigned to the Prince of Glory Catholic Indian Church in Minneapolis from 1971-1972.
The Diocese of Gallup does include Conlon's name as a credibly accused abuser. Conlon was pulled from his Gallup Diocese assignment at St. John the Baptist Parish in St. Johns, Arizona, in January 2014.
After his removal, Conlon told some of his parishioners a fabricated story that he was being unfairly removed because of actions he committed as a minor. However, during the diocese’s bankruptcy case, Conlon’s name surfaced in a court document dated Oct. 3, 2014. Bankruptcy attorney Boswell stated Conlon was removed because of a credible allegation of abuse committed when Conlon was in the seminary.
Conlon lives in Arizona, according to the Crosier Fathers and Brothers.