Published in the Gallup Independent, Gallup, N.M., Sept. 18, 2017
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
GALLUP — When Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester publicly released a list of names of credibly accused clergy sex abusers Tuesday, his list shed light on a former Gallup priest who had never before been publicly named as a sex abuser.
The Rev. Roman Pfalzer, OFM, who died in 2011, is listed as the 54th credibly accused clergy sex abuser out of 74 names, according to the archbishop’s news release.
Wester’s list, which includes 66 priests, six religious brothers and two deacons, includes the names of four abusers who worked in both the Diocese of Gallup and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Three of the abuser priests have already been publicly identified by both the media and the Diocese of Gallup: the Rev. David Clark, a member of the Claretian Missionary order; the Rev. Robert Kirsch, a Gallup priest who left to become incardinated into the Archdiocese of Santa Fe; and the Rev. Diego Mazon, OFM, a Franciscan friar who was removed from Gallup’s St. Francis Church because of a sex abuse allegation in 2004.
The fourth is Pfalzer, a Franciscan friar who served as a priest at St. Francis Church in Gallup in the early 1950s. Although never publicly named before, Pfalzer has been on a list of suspected clergy sex abusers maintained by the Gallup Independent for the past 15 years.
Gallup woman’s story
In the months after the national Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in Boston and spread across the country in 2002, an older woman in Gallup reported troubling stories about Pfalzer’s time in Gallup.
According to the woman, she had been a young, married teenager when a “Father Roman” was assigned to St. Francis Church. The priest made frequent, unwelcome visits to her home, she said, always when her husband was away at work. The woman said Roman visited her with the pretext of inquiring about a disabled family member of hers who lived elsewhere in Gallup. Those visits were uncomfortable, she said, because the priest was always attempting to move physically close to her while she always tried to maintain physical distance from him.
The woman said she believed Roman gave piano lessons to girls at St. Francis Church. When the priest left Gallup, she heard reports that he had inappropriately touched one or more girls, possibly his piano students.
After listening to the woman’s account, a Gallup Independent reporter checked the Official Catholic Directory to see if any priest named Roman was assigned to Gallup during that time. The directory listed the Rev. Roman Pfalzer, OFM, as a priest at St. Francis Church from 1950 to 1951.
The Independent then contacted officials with the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati, Ohio, in an attempt to verify if credible abuse allegations had ever been made against Pfalzer. Those Franciscan officials would not cooperate by providing any information about Pfalzer.
As a result, for the past 15 years, Pfalzer’s name has been on the Independent’s list of suspected clergy abusers. Wester’s announcement Tuesday was the first official confirmation by church authorities that Pfalzer was a credibly accused abuser.
Likely church discipline
Wester outlined four categories of abusers included on the Archdiocese of Santa Fe list. Since Pfalzer had never been the subject of public abuse allegations prior to his death, it is likely he was subjected to internal church discipline as described by Wester: “In the case of canonical processes, the clerics whose names are included either have been dismissed from the clerical state at the end of the canonical process, or have been assigned to a life of prayer and penance, with no ministry possible.”
Wester’s news release stated the list will be updated soon to include abusers’ ministry assignments.
According to a newspaper article from the Santa Fe New Mexican in May 1972, Pfalzer was originally from Louisville, Kentucky, and was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1947. Before working as an assistant at the cathedral in Santa Fe, Pfalzer was previously assigned to churches in Gallup, Roswell and Clovis.
The Official Catholic Directory in 2006 listed Pfalzer as being a retired priest living in the St. Clement Friary in Cincinnati. Pfalzer’s online obituary states Pfalzer died at the age of 93 Dec. 26, 2011, after 64 years as a priest with the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist.
Because of Pfalzer’s inclusion on Wester’s list of clergy abusers and his time in Gallup as a priest, the Diocese of Gallup is expected to include Pfalzer’s name on its list of credibly accused abusers. The Gallup Diocese, however, does not move quickly on these matters.
In the case of Diego Mazon, the diocese placed his name on the credibly accused list in April — more than eight years after the Gallup Independent reported Mazon had been removed from ministry because of the abuse allegation and sex abuse lawsuit. Eight other priests, who have either been named as credibly accused abusers by other Catholic dioceses or religious orders or who were named as abusers by claimants in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case, have yet to be added to the diocese’s credibly accused list.
Currently, the Diocese of Gallup’s list includes the names of 34 men: 31 priests, one religious brother, one seminarian and one lay religion teacher.
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