Diocese’s list of accused local priests grows to 39
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
Gallup Independent correspondent
December 15, 2018
GALLUP — The Diocese of Gallup’s list of credibly accused abusers has now climbed to include 39 names.
Over the last 15 years, the diocese’s list has increased in fits and starts, beginning in 2003, when the diocesan sex abuse review board announced just six credibly accused sex abusers had worked in the Gallup Diocese’s Catholic parishes, missions and schools.
Prior to this week, the list had grown to include 34 names – 31 Catholic priests, one religious brother, one seminary student and one lay religion teacher.
However, on Monday, diocesan officials posted two online statements by Bishop James S. Wall, announcing the addition of five more names of priests who had been identified as credibly accused abusers by other dioceses or religious orders but who had also worked in the Diocese of Gallup.
Those newly added names include Eugene Bowski, Laurence Florez, Dennis Fountain, OFM, Harry Morgan and Justin Weger, OSC.
The addition of the five names followed on the heels of an announcement by the Diocese of Wheeling- Charleston, West Virginia, which identified Bowski as a credibly accused abuser from his ministry assignment there in the 1980s.
“Until the publication of the Wheeling-Charleston list, our Diocese was unaware that a credible allegation of abuse of a minor had been made against Rev. Bowski while he was serving in West Virginia in 1982,” Bishop James S. Wall stated in Monday’s first online announcement. “We are currently investigating why the allegation was not reported to our Diocese.”
Come to light
Bowski, a former religious order priest with the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, retired from the Gallup Diocese in 2014. As he was retiring, he was accused of sexually propositioning an 18-yearold man, who claimed Bowski had been sexually grooming him for several years. In a recent phone interview, Bowski said he became a U.S. Army chaplain after the abuse allegation in West Virginia and before he came here.
Florez transferred from Gallup to the Diocese of Phoenix, where he was named in a clergy sex abuse lawsuit. Fountain, a Franciscan friar, was identified as a credibly accused abuser by the Diocese of Las Cruces; however, Fountain was also accused of molesting students at St. Catherine Indian School in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Inexplicably, Fountain’s name is not on Santa Fe’s credibly accused list. Morgan also transferred from Gallup to the Diocese of Phoenix, where he was arrested and charged with sexually molesting a 9-year-old boy. Weger was identified by his religious order, the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, in 2014. Although the Gallup Diocese claims Weger only worked here for approximately one month in 1974, the Crosiers stated Weger provided weekend assistance here in 1974-75.
“We are currently in the midst of a very painful period in the Church, and there is still much work to be done in order to ensure that children and vulnerable persons are protected,” Wall added in his announcement about Bowski. “Please continue to pray for survivors of abuse, and for me, as your shepherd.”
Wall repeated biblical scripture he has quoted before from the Gospel of Luke: “For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”
Suzanne Hammons, the spokeswoman for the Gallup Diocese, was asked about additional allegations against seven other former Gallup priests.
Two of the accused priests were the Rev. Roman Pfalzer, OFM and James Schlaffer. Pfalzer, who worked at St. Francis Church in Gallup in the early 1950s, has been named as a credibly accused abuser by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Schlaffer, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was accused of sexually molesting an 18-year-old girl in her hospital bed at the Gallup Indian Medical Center in 1974, when Schlaffer was working as a hospital chaplain in Gallup.
The other five accused priests were named as abusers by claimants in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case, but those priests have never been identified as credibly accused abusers by the diocese.
“Right now I don’t have anything further to add aside from what has already been released, except that the list is not permanent and is subject to updates if we have them going forward,” Hammons said in an email Thursday. “If any of the names you mention are added, I’ll sent out a release.”
The following are the ministry assignments in the Diocese of Gallup for the five new credibly accused abusers, according to diocesan officials:
■ St. Mary’s, Farmington – 1995-96
■ Our Lady of Fatima, Chinle, Arizona – 1996-97
■ Immaculate Conception Parish, Cuba – 1997-2002
■ Immaculate Conception School, Cuba – 1997-2000
■ Lived at St. Teresa Parish in Grants – June to October 2002
■ Assignments in Archdiocese of Santa Fe: 2002?-2009
■ St. Patrick, Chichiltah and Good Shepherd, Pinehaven – 2009-14
■ San Lorenzo, Ramah – 2010-14
■ Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Flagstaff, Arizona – 1959-60
■ Santo Nino and missions, Aragon – 1961-62
■ Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holbrook, Arizona – 1963-64
■ St. Mary, Kingman, Arizona – 1965
■ St. John Vianney, Sedona, Arizona – 1966-69
■ Then transferred to newly-formed Diocese of Phoenix
Dennis Fountain, OFM:
■ St. Michael’s Mission, St. Michaels, Arizona – 1981-82
■ St. Joseph, Laguna – 1982-83
■ St. Michael’s Mission, St. Michaels, Arizona – 1988-90
■ Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, Fort Defiance, Arizona – 1988-90
■ St. Joseph, Winslow, Arizona – 1954
■ St. John the Baptist, St. Johns, Arizona – 1955-58
■ St. Pius X, Flagstaff, Arizona – 1959-63
■ St. Joseph, Williams, Arizona – 1964-69
■ Then transferred to newly-formed Diocese of Phoenix
Justin Weger, OSC:
■ Gallup Diocese claims Weger only served for approximately one month in August 1974
■ Our Lady of Sorrows, Seboyeta
■ Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holbrook, Arizona
■ Cristo Rey Seminary, Gallup (now closed)