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Second report on Colorado Catholic Church child sexual abuse IDs 9 more priests, 46 more victims

Colorado Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program authorized $7.3M in payments
Phil Weiser, Samuel Aquila, Randy Dollins catholic church abuse colorado
Posted at 4:59 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 12:36:42-05

DENVER – A supplemental report released Tuesday identified another 46 people who were sexually abused by Catholic priests in Colorado and nine more priests involved in the abuse in the culmination of nearly two years of investigations into abuse within the church.

The supplemental report from Special Master and former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer identified throughout the investigation 212 children abused by 52 different diocesan priests in Colorado between 1950 and 1999.

“It takes incredible fortitude for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories, and they are the heroes of this effort,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. “I recognize there isn’t one program or dollar amount that can make up for the trauma that many have been through in their lives, but my sincerest hope is that this unique Colorado program has allowed survivors of sexual abuse by a priest to take one more step on the path to healing and recovery.”

In February 2019, Weiser and Archbishop Samuel Aquila announced Troyer would lead the independent review of child sexual abuse in the three Colorado dioceses after the church shared records the month beforehand, and that an independent compensation fund would be created for victims.

Last October, Troyer announced his initial findings, which found that at least 166 children had been abused by 43 priests, but the investigation continued as more victims came forward. Announced just weeks earlier was the reconciliation and reparations program, at which time officials overseeing it said that 65 people had stepped forward to begin the process of claiming reparations if they so chose.

In the final report from the Independent Oversight Committee of the Colorado Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program also issued Tuesday, the oversight committee wrote that several of the victims came forward to recount their abuse at the hand of priests for the first time during the investigations.

The supplemental report issued Tuesday by Troyer, which looked only into reports made to the IRRP or attorney general’s office after the original investigation, named five priests from the Denver Archdiocese and four from the Pueblo diocese who had not been previously named in the initial report as abusers. The report only detailed priests who had substantiated claims of abuse levied against them. No new substantiated abuse allegations were made in the supplemental report against priests in the Diocese of Colorado Springs.

The Denver priests are Father Kenneth Funk, Father Daniel Kelleher, Father James Moreno, Father Gregory Smith and Father Charles Woodrich. The newly-named Pueblo priests are Monsignor Marvin Kapushion, Father Duane Repola, Father Carlos Trujillo and Father Joseph Walsh.

The Archdiocese of Denver said in a statement that Woodrich, commonly known as Father Woody, and other priests named in the reports would have his name removed from any honorary designation, including buildings and programs. Woodrich died in 1991.

Don Gallegos, president of the Haven of Hope board, said that Woodrich’s name would be removed from Haven of Hope as well and become Haven of Hope – Jay Gould Center.

The supplemental report again found no substantiated abuse allegations since 1999, as did the prior report, though Troyer wrote previously that record-keeping practices within the dioceses make it impossible to say whether abuse has occurred within the past 20 years.

The supplemental report says that three-quarters of the abuse detailed in it happened in the 1960s and ‘70s and that only one of the 46 newly-reported abuse incidents was not reported to law enforcement.

However, the supplemental report also says that 16 of the 46 new abuse victims were abused by priests after the diocese in which the abuse occurred had been informed that the priest in question was a child sexual abuser.

It says that 37 of the 212 abuse incidents were not reported to law enforcement though required by law and 113 of the 212 children were abused by 14 of the priests after the diocese already knew they were child sexual abusers.

The supplemental report says about two-thirds of abuse incidents were committed by priests named in the first report, thus confirming, according to Troyer, that “historically the dioceses enabled clergy child sexual abuse by transferring abusive priests to new parishes; taking no action to restrict their ministry or access to children; concealing the priests’ behavior with secrecy, euphemism, and lack of documentation; silencing victims; and not reporting the abuse to law enforcement.”

But regarding the substantiated allegations against the nine newly-named priests, Troyer wrote in the report that those did not follow the same pattern because each diocese either immediately suspended the priest in question, or the priest was already dead by the time his actions were reported or discovered.

But the report also says, and Weiser discussed the matter further in a news conference Tuesday morning, that some potential victims are not included in the reported numbers because they did not want to re-live the trauma of recounting their abuse. The numbers could also be lower than the true scope of the number of children abused because some victims have either not reported the abuse or reported it directly to the diocese but not the IRRP or attorney general’s office.

The scope of the investigation also did not include abuse allegations against religious-order priests, ordained priests, or church volunteers, nor did it include abuse that happened to adult victims.

The IRRP program’s final report said that 98 victims had filed claims with the administrators of the reparations program, 81 of whom were deemed eligible for compensation. Of those 81, 79 finished the claims process, and 77 claimants accepted settlement offers from the program’s administrators.

The program has so far authorized $7.3 million in payments to those 77 victims, plus the two others whose claims were incomplete but who will be eligible for payment once the claims are finished.

“The IOC recognizes that there is no one way to heal the trauma suffered by survivors of clergy abuse. However, the IRRP was an important step in the Colorado Dioceses' ongoing work to assist survivors with the process of healing,” said former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown, who was the chair of the independent oversight committee.

“The IOC commends the courage demonstrated by all claimants, especially those coming forward for the first time. The IOC also commends the Colorado Dioceses for financing the program and all settlements paid to survivors. The IOC has worked to ensure that mental health services were available to survivors throughout the program and will remain available. It is the IOC's sincere hope that the IRRP assisted in the healing process for survivors of abuse and the community at large,” Brown added.

Troyer, in his report, commended the three dioceses for changes made to their systems to prevent child abuse and bolster abuse reporting. The dioceses have committed to implementing independent investigation systems, providing victims assistance, improving record-keeping and reporting processes and encouraging the reporting of abuse directly to law enforcement. Each diocese has also pledged to allow third-party audits of their systems.

Troyer wrote that the three dioceses had “eliminated the problematic practices” identified in his first report and that the other pledged improvements “appear to be sound,” though he added that only time will tell.

“At this point, though, they are largely untested,” he wrote, saying that he was hopeful that the third-party audits would strengthen the dioceses’ child-protection systems.

The Archbishop of Denver and Bishops for Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver said in a statement that they would meet with survivors if they so wished, thanked Troyer for his work, and committed to continue to strengthen their child-protection and abuse reporting processes.

The bishops also said that they are “confident” there are no priests active within the ministry with known abuse allegations.

“[A]fter implementing the special master’s recommendations to further strengthen our policies, we believe Catholics and the general public can feel confident that the Church is an extremely safe environment for children,” they wrote.

“As this process has unfolded over nearly two years, there have certainly been painful moments. However, today's supplemental report contains grounds for optimism. I am particularly encouraged by the report’s findings that, since the IRRP began in October 2019, no new credible abuse allegations against priests of the Diocese of Colorado Springs have surfaced,” said Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of the Diocese of Colorado Springs in a statement.

“None of these positive developments can in any way diminish the pain endured by victims of clergy sexual abuse. However, they represent a step forward in ensuring that the sins of the past are not repeated. I call on all the faithful to join me in praying for the healing of abuse victims, and I promise to do everything in my power to uphold the safety of our children and young people,” Sheridan added.

Further investigation into Colorado Catholic Church IDs 46 more victims, 9 more abusive priests — including Denver’s Father Woody

Weiser said in the news conference that he had no further authority to conduct criminal investigations, like the grand jury convened in Pennsylvania whose decisions led to the investigations in Colorado, and that he did not expect any further authority be granted to him on the matter by the legislature or governor.

But he said that other organizations that could have similar patterns of child sexual abuse could potentially be investigated if the legislature decides to take those steps.

Weiser said his office would continue to take reports from potential victims but said he was unsure if they would be outside of the statute of limitations for any criminal action, though he said he was confident the team did not miss any cases that were still prosecutable.

Most of all, he said, he wanted to tell victims the pain he feels for what they went through and that the report and sunlight on the abuse would be “a reckoning” for people in society who abuse children’s trust like the priests did.

“We want to be sure it doesn’t happen again,” the attorney general said.

Troyer, in his conclusion, offered similar sentiments.

“Over the last 22 months, we have conducted hundreds of interviews, analyzed hundreds of documents, reviewed hundreds of files, researched and consulted with experts on numerous issues, and done our best to provide an accurate reckoning with the past and to recommend meaningful protections for the future,” Troyer wrote.

“Many people representing Colorado’s dioceses, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, and the victim-support community provided earnest, sincere, and valuable assistance – as did experts around the country. But no one helped us more than the victims themselves. We hope the First Report and Supplemental Report honor the courage, suffering, sacrifice, and healing of all the victims of clergy child sexual abuse,” he added.