Diocese Fails to Deliver Answers
Part I of a five-part series
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent (Gallup, NM)
May 24, 2011
[See the complete series: 1. Diocese
Fails to Deliver Answers (5/24/11); 2.
Diocese: In or Out of Compliance? (5/25/11); 3.
Diocese Still Mum on Payouts (5/26/11); 4.
Least 16 Abusers in Gallup Diocese (5/27/11); 5.
Diocese's List of Known Abusers (5/28/11).]
GALLUP — For more than two years, officials with the Diocese
of Gallup have been promising answers to some tough questions. Those
answers, however, have been tough to come by.
As a result, some larger questions have emerged. For example, do
local Catholics have a right to receive promised information from
diocesan officials? Do they have a right to expect openness and
transparency from diocesan officials about the clergy sexual abuse
and misconduct that has taken place in the Diocese of Gallup? And
do they have a right to expect the Gallup Diocese to adhere to the
sex abuse policies adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops?
Talking the talk
The biggest unanswered questions concern the promises that were
made in the first six months of 2009. On May 12, 2009, the diocese
made headlines around the country with its announced review of more
than 400 personnel files. The goal of the file review was to discover
an accurate accounting of clergy sex abuse that has happened in
the Gallup Diocese.
Bishop James S. Wall had just been installed as Gallup’s
bishop less than three weeks before, and his news release came on
the heels of a previous announcement three months earlier by Bishop
Thomas J. Olmsted, the temporary apostolic administrator of the
Gallup Diocese. In February 2009, Olmsted had removed the Rev. John
Boland from ministry, ordered an investigation into Boland’s
1983 arrest in Winslow, Ariz., and launched the initial review of
the Gallup Diocese’s personnel files.
“Upon the conclusion of this current review process of priest
personnel files, the diocese will post on its Web site a list of
priests, if any, who have been removed from ministry,” Wall’s
news release promised.
“Information posted and provided to the public may contain
the name of the priest and past assignments.”
The news release sounded no-nonsense, and Wall began his tenure
in Gallup doing a good job of talking the talk.
Two years later, those promises of Olmsted and Wall have yet to
The Diocese of Gallup’s investigation into Boland was completed
in 2009, but Wall has not followed through with the promised public
accounting of that investigation. The exhaustive review of diocesan
personnel files, overseen by the Rev. James Walker, the vicar general
of the diocese, was originally supposed to be completed in October
2009. That deadline came and went, as did Wall’s promises
to inform the public about the outcome of the review and post the
names of abusive clergy on the diocesan website.
Repeated media efforts in 2009 and 2010 to get answers about the
Boland investigation, the personnel file review, and questions about
how the Gallup Diocese handles allegations of abuse were met with
repeated e-mailed promises of answers by diocesan spokesman Lee
Lamb. In fact, e-mails from Lamb throughout the spring of 2010 indicated
diocesan officials were spending time compiling answers to a lengthy
set of media questions. Ultimately, however, the diocese declined
to release those answers. In an e-mail dated July 12, 2010, after
two months of promises, Lamb said the Diocese of Gallup had “been
advised by its attorneys to not comment” on the questions.
Certainly diocesan attorneys might have a number of legal concerns
since the Gallup Diocese is waging legal defenses in at least four
clergy abuse lawsuits.
And in March of this year, diocesan officials quashed a media interview
with Diane DiPaolo, the diocese’s newly appointed victim assistance
coordinator. DiPaolo, a respected professional counselor, had twice
agreed to be interviewed, and Lamb had promised answers to a short
list of questions posed to both DiPaolo and the diocese. Once again,
however, diocesan officials didn’t deliver on their spokesman’s
On the morning of DiPaolo’s scheduled interview, chancery
officials canceled both the answers to the media and DiPaolo’s
Openness vs. privacy
As the new victim assistance coordinator, DiPaolo’s job was
created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter
for the Protection of Children and Young People and its accompanying
Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations
of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. Those documents,
which were approved in 2002 and later revised in 2005, were drafted
in response to the national clergy abuse crisis. They can be read
and printed from the U.S.
bishops’ website. [See also BishopAccountability.org's
cached copies of the 2002 Charter and Norms,
and the 2005 revision. See also a comparison
of the 2002 and 2005/6 texts of the Norms.]
Locally, other important documents include the Diocese of Gallup’s
1993 Policy on Sexual Misconduct and/or Abuse, which was supposed
to be updated to conform to the Charter, and the diocese’s
more recent Code of Ethics. Those two documents are posted on the
Gallup Diocese’s website. [See BishopAccountability.org's
copy of the 1993 Policy and the 2003 Code of Ethics.]
Careful reading of those four documents — all available to
interested Catholics at the click of a computer mouse — leads
to another larger question: Is the Diocese of Gallup really following
the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and
the Essential Norms?
Article 7 of the Charter specifically calls for Catholic dioceses
“to be open and transparent in communicating with the public
about sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the confines of respect
for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved.”
The Diocese of Gallup has made some impressive promises about openness
and transparency. It posts documents on its website that promise
high ethical standards of its clergy. But based on the actions —
or inactions — of Gallup chancery officials over the last
two years, the public is left to wonder if that promised openness
and transparency have been sacrificed in order to protect the privacy
and reputation of abusive clergy, or perhaps sacrificed to protect
the legal interests of the Diocese of Gallup.
compliant is the Gallup Diocese with the U.S. bishops’ sex
Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola can be contacted at (505) 863-6811 ext.
218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.