News Analysis
Diocese Fails to Deliver Answers

Part I of a five-part series

By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Independent correspondent
Gallup Independent (Gallup, NM)
May 24, 2011

[See the complete series: 1. Diocese Fails to Deliver Answers (5/24/11); 2. Gallup Diocese: In or Out of Compliance? (5/25/11); 3. Gallup Diocese Still Mum on Payouts (5/26/11); 4. At Least 16 Abusers in Gallup Diocese (5/27/11); 5. Gallup Diocese's List of Known Abusers (5/28/11).]

GALLUP — For more than two years, officials with the Diocese of Gallup have been promising answers to some tough questions. Those answers, however, have been tough to come by.

As a result, some larger questions have emerged. For example, do local Catholics have a right to receive promised information from diocesan officials? Do they have a right to expect openness and transparency from diocesan officials about the clergy sexual abuse and misconduct that has taken place in the Diocese of Gallup? And do they have a right to expect the Gallup Diocese to adhere to the sex abuse policies adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops?

Talking the talk

The biggest unanswered questions concern the promises that were made in the first six months of 2009. On May 12, 2009, the diocese made headlines around the country with its announced review of more than 400 personnel files. The goal of the file review was to discover an accurate accounting of clergy sex abuse that has happened in the Gallup Diocese.

Bishop James S. Wall had just been installed as Gallup’s bishop less than three weeks before, and his news release came on the heels of a previous announcement three months earlier by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the temporary apostolic administrator of the Gallup Diocese. In February 2009, Olmsted had removed the Rev. John Boland from ministry, ordered an investigation into Boland’s 1983 arrest in Winslow, Ariz., and launched the initial review of the Gallup Diocese’s personnel files.

“Upon the conclusion of this current review process of priest personnel files, the diocese will post on its Web site a list of priests, if any, who have been removed from ministry,” Wall’s news release promised.

“Information posted and provided to the public may contain the name of the priest and past assignments.”

The news release sounded no-nonsense, and Wall began his tenure in Gallup doing a good job of talking the talk.

Unfulfilled promises

Two years later, those promises of Olmsted and Wall have yet to be fulfilled.

The Diocese of Gallup’s investigation into Boland was completed in 2009, but Wall has not followed through with the promised public accounting of that investigation. The exhaustive review of diocesan personnel files, overseen by the Rev. James Walker, the vicar general of the diocese, was originally supposed to be completed in October 2009. That deadline came and went, as did Wall’s promises to inform the public about the outcome of the review and post the names of abusive clergy on the diocesan website.

Repeated media efforts in 2009 and 2010 to get answers about the Boland investigation, the personnel file review, and questions about how the Gallup Diocese handles allegations of abuse were met with repeated e-mailed promises of answers by diocesan spokesman Lee Lamb. In fact, e-mails from Lamb throughout the spring of 2010 indicated diocesan officials were spending time compiling answers to a lengthy set of media questions. Ultimately, however, the diocese declined to release those answers. In an e-mail dated July 12, 2010, after two months of promises, Lamb said the Diocese of Gallup had “been advised by its attorneys to not comment” on the questions.

Certainly diocesan attorneys might have a number of legal concerns since the Gallup Diocese is waging legal defenses in at least four clergy abuse lawsuits.

And in March of this year, diocesan officials quashed a media interview with Diane DiPaolo, the diocese’s newly appointed victim assistance coordinator. DiPaolo, a respected professional counselor, had twice agreed to be interviewed, and Lamb had promised answers to a short list of questions posed to both DiPaolo and the diocese. Once again, however, diocesan officials didn’t deliver on their spokesman’s promises.

On the morning of DiPaolo’s scheduled interview, chancery officials canceled both the answers to the media and DiPaolo’s interview.

Openness vs. privacy

As the new victim assistance coordinator, DiPaolo’s job was created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its accompanying Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. Those documents, which were approved in 2002 and later revised in 2005, were drafted in response to the national clergy abuse crisis. They can be read and printed from the U.S. bishops’ website. [See also's cached copies of the 2002 Charter and Norms, and the 2005 revision. See also a comparison of the 2002 and 2005/6 texts of the Norms.]

Locally, other important documents include the Diocese of Gallup’s 1993 Policy on Sexual Misconduct and/or Abuse, which was supposed to be updated to conform to the Charter, and the diocese’s more recent Code of Ethics. Those two documents are posted on the Gallup Diocese’s website. [See's cached copy of the 1993 Policy and the 2003 Code of Ethics.]

Careful reading of those four documents — all available to interested Catholics at the click of a computer mouse — leads to another larger question: Is the Diocese of Gallup really following the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms?

Article 7 of the Charter specifically calls for Catholic dioceses “to be open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors by clergy within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved.”

The Diocese of Gallup has made some impressive promises about openness and transparency. It posts documents on its website that promise high ethical standards of its clergy. But based on the actions — or inactions — of Gallup chancery officials over the last two years, the public is left to wonder if that promised openness and transparency have been sacrificed in order to protect the privacy and reputation of abusive clergy, or perhaps sacrificed to protect the legal interests of the Diocese of Gallup.

Tomorrow: How compliant is the Gallup Diocese with the U.S. bishops’ sex abuse policies?

Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola can be contacted at (505) 863-6811 ext. 218 or















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