Attorney Wants Insurance Records From New Mexico Franciscan Friars

December 2, 2014

An attorney for victims who claim they were sexually abused by priests in the Diocese of Gallup in New Mexico wants insurance and financial records from the Franciscan Friars, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Claimants attorney James Stang filed motions asking U.S. bankruptcy Judge David Thuma to force two Franciscan provinces to hand over the records.

An attorney for one of the provinces filed a motion Monday, saying the action shouldn’t be required because the alleged abuses happened years before the province was established.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in November 2013 because of mounting claims of clergy sex abuse. According to court records, 12 abuse claims filed as part of the bankruptcy proceedings name seven Franciscan priests as alleged abusers. Many of the alleged claims happened when Bishop Bernard Espelage, a Franciscan priest, was serving the Gallup diocese from 1939 and 1970, according to records.

The diocese includes parishes in six counties in New Mexico, three counties in Arizona and seven American Indian reservations.

The provinces where Stang is seeking records include Ohio-based Province of St. John the Baptist and Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is based in Arizona and New Mexico. Court records indicate that before 1985, Franciscan priests serving the Diocese of Gallup were members of the Province of St. John the Baptist.

A lawyer representing the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe said the province was created in December 1984. The alleged abuses took place between 1960 and 1979 and stopped before 1984, the attorney said.

In July, Thuma sided with Stang and ordered the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas to share insurances and financial information. Stang, who is based in Los Angeles, wanted those records because the late Rev. Clement A. Hageman, one of the accused, had served in Texas before transferring to Gallup in 1940. Hageman, who died in 1975, is accused of sexual abuse by 18 people who have filed claims in the Gallup diocese’s bankruptcy case, Stang said.

The Gallup Diocese became the ninth U.S. Roman Catholic diocese or archdiocese to seek bankruptcy protection since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002.

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