WINSLOW, Ariz. – The Rev. Clement Hageman was among at least a dozen priests in the Diocese of Gallup who have been identified in lawsuits or news reports as having had “credible allegations” of sexual abuse made against them.
Seven of those priests had been posted in Winslow.
Three men who say they were sexually abused by Hageman in the 1960s and 1970s agreed to speak with the Journal last week in Winslow at Madre de Dios Church, which all three attended as boys and the site of most of the abuse.
Joseph Baca, who was among the first to sign a settlement agreement with the diocese in 2004, says he paid a steep price for the sexual abuse he experienced as a boy there.
Baca, 55, said he lost much of his life to alcoholism and drug addiction, and became alienated from his parents, who refused to believe his reports of sex abuse by Hageman in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“It was taboo to talk about priests, let alone about sexual abuse,” said Baca, who said he was repeatedly raped from the of age of 9 to 13, starting in 1966 when Hageman became pastor of Madre de Dios.
Joseph Baca stands between the headstones of his parents, right, and the Rev. Clement Hageman, left, who Baca said sexually abused him as a boy. Baca said his parents were so devoted to Hageman that his mother bought the adjoining burial plots after the priest died in 1975. Visiting his parents’ graves is emotionally difficult, he said. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Hageman first came to the Diocese of Gallup in 1940 – and even then, there were allegations of improper behavior.
Then-Archbishop of Santa Fe Rudolf Gerken assigned Hageman to a mission in Smith Lake, near Thoreau, in the newly formed Diocese of Gallup, according to lawsuits.
Gerken told newly installed Gallup Bishop Bernard Espelage that Hageman had been forced to leave a diocese in Texas because he was “guilty of playing with boys,” Espelage wrote in a letter obtained through the lawsuits.
Hageman was a priest in the Gallup diocese from 1940 until his death in 1975, and was assigned to parishes in Thoreau, N.M., and three Arizona parishes in Winslow, Holbrook and Kingman.
The suits contend that Hageman sexually assaulted six boys in several parishes, often providing them with alcohol, and inviting them on trips and sleepovers.
Baca described his parents as “stout Catholics” who were active in the Winslow parish.
Baca’s mother was so devoted to Hageman that she bought burial plots for herself and her husband next to the Winslow gravesite where the priest was buried in 1975.
“That’s how close they were,” Baca said. “I have to live with that if I go to Winslow to visit my parents’ graves.”
Paul Jaramillo, 50, of Winslow said he was raped repeatedly by Hageman while he served as an altar boy at Madre de Dios from age 10 to 12.
As an altar boy, Jaramillo said he was forced to leave church services through the rectory, Hageman’s residence, attached to the back of Madre de Dios Church. Hageman invariably locked the door of the rectory to prevent Jaramillo’s escape, he said.
The final time he was molested, Jaramillo said he escaped by bolting out the door of the rectory when Hageman answered the telephone.
Paul Jaramillo, 50, stands beside the former rectory of Madre de Dios Church in Winslow where Jaramillo said he was sexually abused by the Rev. Clement Hageman. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
“I had to do it all fast,” he recalled. The boy was barely able to reach a chain on the door and unlock a dead bolt before Hageman dashed after him, Jaramillo said. “He still almost caught me as I was running out,” he said. “He grabbed my arm. I yanked so hard I did a flip, like a roll.” Jaramillo ran from the church and never returned, he said.
Jaramillo said he doesn’t know what gave him the courage to escape Hageman that day.
“All I know is I saw what was developing,” he said. Jaramillo had hoped the abuse would end, but instead it became more severe over time, he said. “At that point, I just decided I’m not going to come back, and I didn’t.”
The diocese settled with Baca in 2004 and with Jaramillo in 2008, both for undisclosed amounts of money, they said. A third of Hageman’s victims, Frank Gonzales, 63, of Winslow, said he settled with the diocese in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.
The diocese “told us they were going bankrupt, so I just signed, and bye-bye,” Gonzales said.
All three were clients of the late James Zorigian, a Los Angeles attorney who obtained an unknown number of settlements with the diocese. He died May 21.
Zorigian filed no lawsuits and provided no public information about his clients, he told The Gallup Independent in 2011. He simply contacted the diocese, which interviewed his clients and negotiated a settlement.
Baca, now of Phoenix, said he doesn’t know how many cases the diocese has settled. But he believes that Winslow alone is home to at least 200 sex abuse victims, based on his personal knowledge of the community.
“Many don’t want to come forward,” he said. “Quite a few” abuse victims are in prison, homeless or addicted to drugs or alcohol. Others remain devoted Catholics and don’t want to speak out, he said.
“I imagine there will be a few more come forward” as the bankruptcy proceeds, Baca said.