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Survivor of priest abuse blasts handling of latest church response

PHOENIX — A survivor of sexual abuse is calling leaders at the Catholic diocese in Gallup, New Mexico, cowards.

The ire comes one day after the diocese released more than 30 new names of suspected predators within the church. More than half on the list worked in Arizona between 1951 and 2013.

In a public letter, Bishop James Wall of the Gallup Diocese wrote, “In my ongoing commitment to protection of children and to further my goal of transparency within this Diocese, we have determined that there are additional priests against whom there have been credible allegations of child abuse.”

Despite the apparent openness, Joelle Casteix with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said, “This smells bad!”

Having advocated for more than a decade against priest abuse, Casteix, who lives in Southern California, said the open letter is more a calculated attempt to avoid further civil suits before the diocese bankruptcy case closed.

“If they released all of these names before the bar date shut, then victims of these priests — who are just now being released — might have felt more confident in coming forward.”

Among the 17 men who worked at churches in Arizona, five are dead, 11 served from the 1950s through the early 1980s. One worked as late as last year.

All of the priests served in remote areas of the state.

In the letter’s closing, Wall wrote, “If you or a loved one were harmed by the sexual misconduct of an employee or clergy with the Diocese of Gallup we strongly encourage you to contact law enforcement.”

Casteix agrees with that — she urged victims to not see the church as a first resort for reporting abuse.

“There are (other) groups like SNAP, many of the attorneys who helped victims through the bankruptcy process, and there are other organizations that can help people …,” Casteix said.

If the diocese is sincere about repairing the damage done, SNAP asked that it publish the priests’ names, where the suspected abusers are now, their photos, and the complete list of information every time new names are added.

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