Corpus Christi Diocese sued under Arizona sex abuse law




Father Clement A. Hageman, who was transferred to Holbrook’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in 1942. Photo from Bishop-Accountability.org.

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A pair of lawsuits filed were filed in Arizona on Thursday against the Corpus Christi Diocese of the Catholic Church under a recent state law giving sexual abuse victims more time to take their abusers and the organizations that protected them to court. 

The lawsuits, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, allege sexual abuse by a priest whom the diocese moved to Arizona decades ago.

The allegations in both cases date back to cases being brought before Arizona’s courts are both from the 1960s when Father Clement A. Hageman was in Northern Arizona. 

Hageman, who is deceased, has been accused before in Arizona. In 2010, a 70-year-old Phoenix man sued alleging abuse by Hageman while he was serving in Santa Fe, according to the Caller-Times of Corpus Christi.

In 1939, the bishop of the Diocese of Corpus Christi was informed of abuse by Hageman, who it then moved, according to one of the complaints filed in court Thursday

After Texas, Hageman went to Connecticut and then New Mexico before arriving at Holbrook’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in 1942. 

The case filed Thursday alleges that the church was well aware of Hageman’s abuses, citing a letter from the bishop of Gallup, N.M., to the bishop of Corpus Christi in 1940 saying that Hageman was “guilty of playing with boys.” 

One of the unnamed plaintiffs was attending the Madre de Dios Church in Winslow while the other was attending St. Joseph’s Mission Catholic Church in Mayer. Hageman was assigned to both these churches during the time. 

Since 2011, other people in Winslow have come forward with stories of alleged abuse by Hageman, who is also buried there. In 2005, Hageman was added to the list of credibly accused priests by the Gallup Diocese. 

The suit claims that the Diocese of Corpus Christi was negligent in its actions in protecting Hageman and not the public. 

“Defendants knew or should have known that Defendants had numerous agents who had sexually molested children,” the suit says. “Defendants knew or should have known that child molesters have a high rate of recidivism.”

The Diocese of Corpus Christi did not respond to a request for comment. 

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2466 into law which gives victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to sue in civil court, ending Arizona’s status as one of the worst states in the nation for survivors to seek redress. 

It also opened a temporary window to allow for victims over the age of 30 to file civil claims against their abusers and the institutions that protected them no matter where the abuse occurred until the end of 2020. 

Previously in Arizona the statute of limitations ended just two years after a victim turns 18 years old.

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.