Clergy sex abuse case ending in settlement

Gallup Independent

November 20, 2017

By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The clergy sex abuse lawsuit against the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michael Indian School is being settled, according to the attorney for the woman who filed the suit.

“The agreement has been finalized and the parties are waiting for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michaels Indian School to fulfill their promises under the agreement,” Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor said in an email Wednesday.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Coconino County Superior Court in 2015, centered on the childhood sexual molestation of the plaintiff, who filed the lawsuit as Jane L.S. Doe to protect her anonymity. The plaintiff, a member of the Navajo Nation, said she was abused by Brother Mark Schornack, OFM, when she was a student at St. Michael Indian School and Schornack, a Franciscan friar, was her bus driver.

Doe, along with another Navajo woman, had also filed abuse claims naming Schornack as a perpetrator in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case. Those claims were approved by officials with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. In April 2017, the Gallup Diocese announced Schornack’s name had been added to the diocese’s list of credibly accused child sex abusers.

The Doe lawsuit began to move forward once the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case was officially closed earlier this year. Attorneys in the case met with a mediator Oct. 10, and they were scheduled to report their progress to Judge Dan Slayton in an upcoming hearing Dec. 11.

However, Peter C. Kelly II, the Phoenix attorney who represents the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michael Indian School, filed a notice of settlement Oct. 27.

When contacted last week, Kelly and officials with the Sisters’ religious order declined to answer questions about the monetary settlement.

Pastor, however, said the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament had insisted the settlement provisions be kept confidential.

“Unfortunately, as a condition of this settlement,” he said, “St. Michaels Indian School and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament required confidentiality.”

Pastor was asked if his client was satisfied with the settlement agreement.

“I do not believe victims of sexual abuse experience satisfaction when sexual abuse lawsuits are settled,” he said. “Nothing can ever be said or done to repair the scars caused by clergy sexual abuse. By resolving cases like this one, however, we hope it offers survivors of clergy sexual abuse some sense of closure and some sense of validation that the perpetrator is a confirmed sex offender who was allowed to prey upon innocent children.”

The Jane L.S. Doe case is believed to be the last clergy sex abuse lawsuit publicly filed against either the Diocese of Gallup or a Catholic entity operating within the Gallup Diocese.

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