Nm Diocese Sued over Sexual Abuse Allegations

Houston Chronicle
November 11, 2010

GALLUP, N.M. A 70-year-old Phoenix man has sued the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, among others, claiming that he was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest in the 1950s.

The lawsuit filed in Arizona's Coconino County Superior Court accuses longtime Diocese of Gallup priest Clement Hageman of abuse and the church of covering up and hiding the abuse. Hageman died in 1975.

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation and punitive damages. The archidiocese, the Diocese of Gallup, the Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas, Hageman's estate and a Holbrook, Ariz., church were named in the lawsuit.

Hageman was assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Holbrook in 1942, where the alleged victim served as an altar boy. A group of men from the church confronted Hageman a decade later, accusing him of sexually abusing boys and informed the bishop, the lawsuit stated.

The defendants "covered up and deliberately tried to hide and deny the specific incidents of Hageman's sexual abuse, Hageman's history of sexual abuse, and Hageman's propensity for sexual abuse," it said.

The Diocese of Gallup released Hageman's name as a credibly accused pedophile priest in 2005. During a healing Mass for victims, the late Bishop Donald Pelotte called Hageman one of the "most abusive priests in the diocese."

Robert Pastor, an attorney for the plaintiff, said the abuse has damaged his client's personal life and he wants to reveal the truth about Hageman. The lawsuit sought a jury trial.

Officials with the Gallup diocese declined to comment. A victim assistance coordinator at the Texas diocese told the Gallup Independent there had been no allegations against Hageman.

According to the complaint, Hageman's sexual abuse of boys first was documented in the 1930s in the Corpus Christi diocese, where he was ordained a priest. It said he was "banished" from the diocese in 1939 and unsuccessfully sought assignments in Wisconsin and Connecticut.

The lawsuit detailed allegations that, if true, fill in gaps of missing information about Hageman's life, and his assignments and reassignments with the church in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Hageman left Holbrook by 1953 and was reassigned to a Kingman, Ariz., parish where he worked until 1963. His last assignment was in Winslow, Ariz.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.