Gallup Diocese: In or Out of Compliance?
Part II of a five-part series
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent (Gallup, NM)
May 25, 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 — Readers of the Diocese of Gallup’s official
newspaper are always greeted with good news.
Certainly the upcoming issue will most likely feature an article
about the Diocese of Gallup passing its 2010 audit and being deemed
“in compliance” with the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
People and its Essential Norms.
However, like official news releases typically issued by large
institutions concerned about their bottom line, information can
be misleading. Details can be omitted.
The term “in compliance” sounds impressive. However,
the term is not particularly exclusive as it turns out that church
officials found every single Catholic diocese that participated
in the 2010 audit to be in compliance. This includes the Archdiocese
of Philadelphia, which was recently targeted by a grand jury for
failing to remove more than three dozen priests accused of sexual
abuse or “boundary” violations and has seen a number
of its church officials criminally indicted and arrested this spring.
The term is also misleading because the annual compliance audits
of Catholic dioceses are conducted by “auditors” who
have no authority to inspect church records, particularly the personnel
files of clergy. As a result, those auditors are left to depend
on self-reporting by diocesan officials and to depend on the officials’
As a result, the Gallup Diocese was found “in compliance”
by auditors who were not allowed to look at Diocese of Gallup records.
Local Catholics will also apparently have to depend on self-reporting
by Gallup chancery officials concerning the details of the diocese’s
2010 audit report.
“As is the procedure in most dioceses, we will publish the
appropriate information and reporting procedures in our May issue
of the Voice of the Southwest, but it will not include a release
of the full audit report,” diocesan spokesman Lee Lamb said
in an April 29 email.
In other words, Gallup chancery officials will decide what is “appropriate
information” for local Catholics to know. The early audit
reports of 2003 and 2004, posted on the U.S. bishops’ website,
included instructions, recommendations and commendations made to
the dioceses by the auditors. The U.S. bishops, however, no longer
post those audit reports online.
As a result, local Catholics won’t know if there are any
problems cited by the auditors unless Gallup diocesan officials
release that information. According to an April 11 news release
by the U.S. bishops, 55 dioceses received “management letters
expressing concerns about procedures which could result in non-compliance”
— meaning more than a quarter of the nearly 200 U.S. dioceses
received a management letter. That is an increase from the 2009
audit, which saw only 23 such letters issued. But the identity of
those 55 dioceses remains a mystery.
Did the Diocese of Gallup receive such a management letter? Local
Catholics will have to see if chancery officials tell them.
So the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been satisfied that
the Gallup Diocese is in compliance with the Charter’s “letter
of the law” for one more year. But what about the spirit of
Article 1 of the Charter calls for dioceses to “reach out
to victims/survivors and their families and demonstrate a sincere
commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being.” It
also states, “Through pastoral outreach to victims and their
families, the diocesan/eparchial bishop or his representative is
to offer to meet with them, to listen with patience and compassion
to their experiences and concerns.”
A recent report published by the U.S. bishops about the 2010 audit
states, “Many bishops continue to respond by offering apologies,
healing masses, and retreats for those harmed by abuse.”
It is not known if Bishop James S. Wall has met with any Gallup
clergy abuse victims and their families because he and his chancery
officials have never answered repeated media questions about such
meetings. In contrast, the Independent knows of two mothers of victims
whose meeting requests have been ignored by chancery officials.
Wall has never offered a healing Mass of Reconciliation for victims
and their families — unlike his former mentor in Phoenix,
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who offers them regularly — and
he has certainly never offered a retreat for victims.
Article 2 and Norm 1 of the Charter, which concern the diocese’s
policies and procedures regarding abuse allegations, is equally
problematic. Provisions in Article 2 state dioceses are “to
have a review board that functions as a confidential consultative
body to the bishop” and the review board “is to advise
the diocesan/eparchial bishop in his assessment of allegation of
sexual abuse of minors.”
Along with Norm 1, the article requires the local review board
to be composed of at least five persons, at least one board member
should be a priest, and board members serve terms of five years,
which can be extended for longer periods.
However, the Gallup Diocesan Review Board on Juvenile Sexual Abuse,
which also does not have the authority to actually inspect diocesan
records and personnel files, has never met with Wall in his two
years as bishop, according to a source close to the diocese. In
addition, the board hasn’t met in months, and its member priest,
the Rev. Jerry Herff, has moved to California.
In response to questions about the review board, diocesan spokesman
Lamb said the Rev. Frank Chacon would be replacing Herff, and claimed
the review board “continues to fulfill its obligations.”
However, Lamb declined to name the current review board members,
declined to state how many times the review board has met over the
last two years, and declined to explain why Wall has never met with
Those non-answers raise the question of how the review board “continues
to fulfill its obligations” as a consultative body to the
Diocese of Gallup’s continuing confidential settlement agreements
with abuse victims.
Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola can be contacted at (505) 863-6811 ext.
218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.