More than 50 abuse claims filed against Gallup Diocese

By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent
August 21, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE — Fifty-six individuals, claiming they suffered injury by sexually abusive clergy or other representatives of the Diocese of Gallup, filed claims against the diocese in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, according to a U.S. Justice Department official.

The 56 confidential claimants filed their proof of claim form by the case’s bar date deadline of Aug. 11, Ronald Andazola, the Assistant U.S. Trustee, said Monday. The claimants’ identities will be protected throughout the bankruptcy case by the court.

With the passing of the bar date, the Gallup Diocese’s case has reached a significant milestone.

Nearly a year ago, over the Labor Day Weekend, Gallup Bishop James S. Wall shocked parishioners across the diocese by announcing plans to file a Chapter 11 petition. More than two months later, attorneys for the diocese filed the petition in Albuquerque’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

During the first court hearing on Nov. 15, 2013, Judge David T. Thuma and diocesan attorneys, discussing a confidential mailing list that had to be created, referred to 105 individuals who had come forward as survivors of clergy sex abuse in the Gallup Diocese. That number included people who had already signed financial settlements with the diocese, people who came forward with allegations but did not seek settlements, and those who had current legal claims against the diocese.

Less than two weeks later, diocesan attorneys revised that number up to 121. That revised number included 32 individuals who were being represented by attorneys at the time of the Chapter 11 filing.

In April, when the claims bar date was set, any person who had already received a financial settlement from the Gallup Diocese was prohibited from filing a new claim in bankruptcy court. Filing extensions

While the bar date was reached last week, two other important milestones may be pushed back into the next year.

Originally, the Diocese of Gallup was scheduled to file a plan of reorganization by March 12, 2014, and the diocese’s exclusive period to solicit acceptance of such a plan was to expire May 12. However, Susan G. Boswell, the diocese’s lead bankruptcy attorney, filed a motion in February to extend the filing period through Sept. 8, and the acceptance period through Nov. 10. A month later, Thuma approved that extension.

Last week, Boswell filed a second motion requesting another extension to push back the exclusive filing period to May 12, 2015, and the exclusive acceptance period to July 10, 2015. Boswell cited a number of factors, including the complexity of the Diocese of Gallup’s case because of incomplete record keeping for nearly 75 years, the task of determining what real property the diocese owns that can be sold, the hiring of an insurance archaeology company to determine insurance coverage, and the identification of other entities that might have “indemnification or contribution obligations” to the diocese for sexual abuse that occurred in the past.

Objections to Boswell’s motion must be filed by Sept. 5, and a hearing on the motion is scheduled Sept. 15.

Legal wrangling

One effort to identify another Catholic entity that might have a legal indemnification or contribution obligation involves ongoing legal wrangling with the Diocese of Corpus Christi in Texas.

In April, James I. Stang, the legal counsel for the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which advocates for the interests of abuse survivors who are confidential claimants, filed a motion for the examination of the Corpus Christi Diocese under Bankruptcy Rule 2004. In the motion, Stang requested an extensive list of documents pertaining to the diocese’s finances and insurance coverage.

Corpus Christi was pulled into the bankruptcy case because one of its former abusive priests, Clement A. Hageman, ended up working in the newly formed Diocese of Gallup after being pushed out of Corpus Christi for sexual abuse. He worked in the Gallup Diocese for approximately 35 years, until his death in 1975.

Hageman’s personnel file from Gallup was posted on the Bishop Accountability website in 2011 after being obtained by one of Hageman’s abuse victims. In addition to documenting Hageman’s molestation of Catholic school children and altar boys in Arizona parishes along old Route 66, the file contains an undated document filled out by Hageman years after arriving in the Gallup Diocese. In the document, which Hageman filled out between 1942 and 1953 while working in Holbrook, Ariz., he identified his “present” bishop as the “Most Rev. E. Ledvina Corpus Christi.”

Albuquerque attorney Jennie D. Behles, hired to represent the Corpus Christi Diocese, filed two replies in opposition of Stang’s examination motion.

Last month, Thuma issued a memorandum opinion and order that attempted to navigate what Thuma called “reasonable middle ground” between Stang’s motion and Behles’ opposition. The judge granted Stang’s Rule 2004 Motion in part, but limited the scope of discovery. Thuma also limited discovery to just the Diocese of Corpus Christi and not to Catholic organizations affiliated with the diocese.

In spite of Thuma’s order, however, the Corpus Christi issue is far from resolved. Last week Behles filed a notice of appeal, followed by a motion to stay Thuma’s order.



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