Colorado Catholic Church to Offer Compensation Fund and Following Inquiry into Priest Abuse

Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Denver agreed to a joint investigation into allegations of abuse by members of the clergy, along with the Colorado Attorney General’s office. The Dioceses of Pueblo and Colorado Springs also agreed to take part.

Attorney General Phil Weiser and Archbishop Samuel Aquila announced the investigation in February, promising a full report by this fall.  The inquiry is to examine evidence of priest sex abuse dating back to the 1950s and will include a review of the records and policies of the Denver archdiocese regarding sexual abuse of minors. Former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer will conduct the investigation. It will be overseen by former Sen. Hank Brown.

Troyer will have access to archdiocese records and past abuse claims and will produce a public report that will also cover how well the church responded to past abuse claims.

Each diocese also has agreed to offer survivors of sexual abuse an opportunity to participate in a compensation fund. Participation is voluntary. The fund will be like victims’ compensation funds established by Catholic diocese in New York and New Jersey. The Colorado fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros.

All three Catholic dioceses in the state have agreed to participate in the investigation. Although it is not a criminal investigation, Weiser said that it could result in referrals to law enforcement if relevant.

The independent inquiry will not investigate sexual abuse allegations made against priests or other members of religious orders. For example, if a priest is a member of the Jesuits or Franciscans, that priest is part of a religious order and is not a diocese priest. Under the agreement between the State Attorney General’s office and the three dioceses, the investigation will not cover these religious order priests.

Nationally, about a third of all Catholic clergy belong to religious orders. The Denver Post estimates that approximately one third of the priests in Colorado accused of sexually molesting children belong to religious orders and will be excluded from the investigation.

According to Bishop Accountability, there have been 20 priests accused of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Denver, some of whom belong to religious orders. For instance, three of the 20 named priests in the Bishop Accountability database belong to an obscure religious order called the Theatines who have a seminary in Denver and operate 8 parishes in the state of Colorado.

Victims of abuse by religious-order clergy also will not have access to the compensation fund financed by the dioceses. Therefore, they will not have access to support services offered in connection with the compensation program. Those victims can, however, file a report with the Attorney General’s office’s victim advocate online or by calling 720-508-6003. That office will get the alleged victim in touch with services.

The independent inquiry is expected to be finished in the fall of 2019 when the compensation fund for the three dioceses will be launched. Colorado also allows victims of child sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits, subject to the statute of limitations that sets a deadline for such claims.

 

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other states.

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