Brother assigned to area while at treatment center for sex abusers
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent correspondent
October 17, 2017
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Usually it takes a judge’s order to pry the lid off a clergy sex abuser’s confidential personnel file.
But in the case of Brother Mark Schornack, OFM, it just took a mistake by a courthouse employee to publicly release restricted documents that were supposed to be filed under seal.
That mistake was made in Flagstaff’s Coconino County Courthouse with the case Jane L.S. Doe v. Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michael Indian School. The documents reveal that Schornack, who has been identified as a credibly accused child molester by the Diocese of Gallup, was accepted into the Franciscan religious order while he was a patient at Via Coeli, the notorious New Mexico treatment center known for treating and recycling Catholic clergy sex abusers.
“Your application for admission to the brotherhood has been approved,” the Rev. Herbert Klosterkemper OFM wrote to Schornack Feb. 14, 1952. “You may arrange to report at St. Michael Mission, St. Michaels, Arizona, around the end of this month.” The letter was marked “Restricted Material” and “Confidential SJB001548” by the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati, Ohio.
And with this acceptance letter, the Franciscans sent Schornack straight to his first mission assignment on the Navajo Nation and the Diocese of Gallup. According to the diocese’s list of credibly accused abusers, Schornack worked in the diocese from 1952 to 1984. Known mostly for driving a school bus and throwing roller skating parties for children, Schornack also had at least one assignment in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe at Jemez Pueblo in 1985. He died in January 2012 after being a resident at the Little Sisters of the Poor facility in Gallup.
The restricted documents came from Schornack’s confidential personnel file maintained by the Franciscans in Cincinnati. Prior to the mid-1980s, most of the Franciscan friars working in the Diocese of Gallup and Archdiocese of Santa Fe came from the Ohio province.
The personnel file was obtained by Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor, who has represented two Navajo women who filed sex abuse claims against the Gallup Diocese in the diocese’s bankruptcy case. One of the women went on to sue the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michael Indian School in Coconino County Superior Court because her abuse took place at the school when Schornack was her bus driver.
On April 27, Pastor filed several exhibits that included pages from Schornack’s confidential personnel file, but he instructed two of those exhibits to be filed under seal to satisfy the requirements of the Franciscans. Although approved by Judge Dan Slayton, the exhibits were not sealed. The pages from Schornack’s personnel file were available for public viewing when the court file was inspected in September.
Most startling were the two pages in Exhibit 2: Schornack’s application to join the Franciscans lay brotherhood dated Jan. 16, 1952, and the Franciscans’ acceptance letter a month later. Schornack’s address on both documents was the Via Coeli treatment center in Jemez Springs.
On his application, marked “Restricted Material” and “Confidential SJB001535,” Schornack states his name as John Francis Schornack. He would go on to be known by countless Native American children as “Brother Mark.” A native of Detroit, Michigan, Schornack said he had previously been a member of the Maryknoll Brothers of Maryknoll, New York, from 1939 to 1943.
Since Schornack was a patient at Via Coeli in 1952, he had to have been sent there by a Catholic diocese or religious order. That information, however, was not included on his application.
Five pages of restricted Franciscan documents make up Exhibit 4. A photo of Schornack is listed as “Confidential SJB001591,” another photo is captioned “The beloved Bus Driver” and marked “Confidential SJB001611.”
A Franciscan newsletter page, “Confidential SJB001596,” shows one photo of Schornack holding a child’s hand while roller-skating and another of Schornack driving a bus.
“Driving a bus for almost 30 years, one way or another, he got to know generations of children who attended St. Michael School and many of the public schools of the places where he lived and worked,” the caption states.
Another newsletter page, “Confidential SJB001597,” features photos of the Franciscan friar driving a bus and also being surrounded by children.
“Children from St. Michaels and Fort Defiance, Window Rock and Klagetoh, Lumberton and Ganado recognize him,” the caption states. “He has a special relationship with the pre-teens on the Navajo Reservation. Like skating and busing, little children are a major part of the missionary image of Brother Mark.”
Schornack, dressed like Santa Claus and surrounded by children, is photographed on “Confidential SJB001598.” The first two sentences of the caption state: “Whether it is one-on-one or in a group, Brother Mark is comfortable with the pre-teens and little tots. He has a special gift to offer them – himself, the way he is.”