Diocese adds names to sex abuser list
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent correspondent
April 29, 2017
GALLUP — Officials with the Diocese of Gallup announced they have added three more names to the list of credibly accused clergy sex abusers Wednesday.
“There have been credible allegations of past sexual abuse of a minor (all occurring prior to 2004) against Br. Mark Schornack, OFM, Fr. Ephraim Beltramea, OFM, and Fr. Diego Mazon, OFM,” the diocese announced in a news release.
All three were Franciscan friars who were assigned to churches in the Gallup Diocese for at least part of their ministry. This brings the number of names on the diocese’s credibly accused list to 34, which now includes 33 clergy members and one lay church worker.
However, contrary to the diocese’s announcement, church officials did not add the additional names to the diocese’s published website list until Friday afternoon, after being notified by the Gallup Independent that the names were still absent.
When contacted about the oversight, Suzanne Hammons, the spokeswoman for the Diocese, corrected the website list but said she would not answer any questions about the announcement now because she “gave the exclusive on the story” to the Catholic News Agency.
Although the Diocese of Gallup has just pronounced the allegations to be credible, allegations against the men have been public for years.
Schornack was named in two clergy sex abuse lawsuits filed by Phoenix attorney Robert E. Pastor on behalf of two women who said they were abused as children by Schornack at either St. Michael Mission or St. Michael Indian School. Both women were claimants in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case, and both received settlements as part of the Chapter 11 plan of reorganization. One of the women currently has a lawsuit against the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament who operate St. Michael Indian School. Schornack died in 2012.
Mazon, who is originally from the Gallup area, has been the subject of media reports after the Gallup Independent discovered he had been named in a clergy sex abuse lawsuit filed in 2005, on behalf of a woman who said Mazon abused her as a child in Roswell in the 1970s. Along with Mazon, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist in Ohio were named as defendants. In 2009, Annette M. Klimka, the victims’ assistance coordinator for the Santa Fe Archdiocese, confirmed Mazon had been removed from ministry at St. Francis Church in Gallup because of the abuse allegations, and she said a settlement agreement had been made in the case. Parishioners in Gallup, however, were told Mazon stepped down for health reasons. Mazon lives in retirement in the Albuquerque area, along with the Rev. Lawrence “Larry” Schreiber, another credibly accused Franciscan friar.
Beltramea, aka Ephrem or John Beltramea, was named by at least one abuse claimant in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case. According to the diocese, Beltramea had only one ministry assignment in the diocese: St. Francis Church in Gallup from 1970-1973. Online websites indicate he was ordained in Washburn, Illinois, in 1961, and he served for some time as a priest in Illinois before coming to the Southwest. Diocesan officials haven’t been able to determine if Beltramea is still living.
Right direction, slow pace
“I think it’s finally a step in the right direction for the diocese,” Gallup resident Prudence Jones said in a phone interview Thursday. “But there are still many more steps ahead for the victims’ relief.”
As a child, Jones was abused by Schornack at St. Michael Mission. During the diocese’s bankruptcy case, she served on the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which represented the interests of abuse claimants. She said she hopes the Gallup Diocese will add more names to its list of credibly accused abusers in the near future.
Jones expressed anger over the “really slow, slow pace — frustratingly slow” time that it took the Diocese of Gallup to admit Schornack was a credibly accused abuser.
“It took a lifetime,” she said.
Jones said Schornack apologized to her not long before his death, but his apology left her wondering how many other children he had abused. Jones explained she had confided the story of her abuse to a priest at St. Francis Church in Gallup. That priest then arranged for Jones to meet with Schornack, who was a resident at the Little Sisters of the Poor facility in Gallup.
“The first words he spoke to me was, ‘Did I hurt you?’” Jones recalled. When Jones said yes, Schornack apologized to her.
“That floored me,” Jones said. “How many more were there?”
Jones also expressed frustration that the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Michael Indian School failed to contribute to the Diocese of Gallup’s settlement agreement and are now fighting another Schornack abuse survivor in court. Jones described the Sisters’ legal approach to the abuse survivor as similar to that taken by other church entities: “Deny, deny. Dig your feet in and don’t go willingly.”
With the addition of the three names to the diocese’s list of credibly accused abusers, Bishop James S. Wall will need to add two more healing services for abuse survivors to his schedule. Under the non-monetary provisions of the Chapter 11 reorganization, Wall is required to visit every Catholic school and church where an abuser was assigned. Wall will now need to visit the Arizona parishes of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Kayenta and St. Anne in Klagetoh, both on the Navajo Nation.