Bishop Wall's Moral Challenge

The Gallup Independent
January 7, 2014

It’s the start of a new year, and Bishop James S. Wall of the Diocese of Gallup is faced with a choice. It’s the same choice each one of us has every new year, every new day, every minute. It’s the choice to do the right thing.

When Wall was appointed bishop nearly five years ago, he promised to conduct a thorough review of all the diocesan personnel files, make the results public, and identify all the clergy sex abusers.

Wall has failed to do that.

When Wall announced the Diocese of Gallup would file a Chapter 11 petition, he promised to be “open and transparent” in the process. “It is very important to me that you all understand that I have not taken this step to avoid responsibility for what happened or to hide anything,” he said.

Yet within a month, Wall, along with the Rev. Alfred Tachias, would not submit to an Arizona court deposition without insisting the testimony remain sealed from the public. And in November, when four more depositions were scheduled and a legal dispute was brewing over the sealed depositions, Wall had his bankruptcy attorneys file the Chapter 11 petition, which halted all the Arizona court activity.

When the Gallup Diocese had to release the personnel file of Gallup abuser James Burns to comply with the terms of a California court settlement, its attorneys managed to keep more than 200 pages sealed — more than one-third of the file — through questionable redactions.

“We fully realize our responsibility to heal the hurt of those who were abused,” the bishop said in his Chapter 11 announcement. In addition, Wall said, he had “explored the alternatives” that would allow the diocese to treat abuse survivors “in a just, equitable and more than merciful manner,” and he expressed the hope that everyone involved in the bankruptcy process could “work cooperatively for an early resolution.”

Yet Wall and his bankruptcy attorneys — who are billing the diocese hundreds of dollars per hour — are already dragging the process out in an unjust, inequitable and unmerciful manner by trying to sell Judge David T. Thuma and the Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee program a bogus bill of goods.

They are trying to convince federal officials that its priests aren’t really its employees, that its parishes aren’t really part of the diocese, and that its three main nonprofit organizations, the Catholic Peoples Foundation, Southwest Indian Foundation, and Catholic Charities of Gallup, don’t really raise money to benefit programs in the diocese.

It’s all legal smoke and mirrors, and it’s all about protecting diocesan assets. The end result will be a long drawn-out bankruptcy process with only Wall’s high priced bankruptcy attorneys profiting from the delays.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do the right thing.” It’s time for the Gallup bishop to start doing the right thing. Wall needs to stop talking about being open and transparent, and actually start being open and transparent. He needs to unseal his Arizona court deposition, release the names of all abusive Gallup clergy, fully release all abusive clergy personnel files, and stop playing semantic games in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

If the bishop fails to do these things, the diocese won’t be the only thing that is bankrupt.


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