Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has unveiled a new independent report detailing allegations of sex abuse against at least 166 children by 43 Roman Catholic priests over the course of 70 years.
Weiser announced the more than 250-page report during a news conference on Wednesday (Oct. 23), describing the documented abuse of children by Catholic priests going back decades as “unimaginable.”
“The most painful part for me is that we have had stories told of victims coming forward, and they weren’t supported,” Weiser told reporters in Denver. “We can’t make up for that. What we can do is build a culture that going forward, when people come forward and tell their stories, they are supported.”
Weiser also made mention of a new reparations program for victims, which will be funded by dioceses and orchestrated by Kenneth Feinberg.
The report states that 97 of the victims were sexually abused “after the Colorado Dioceses were on notice that the priests were child sex abusers.”
The report also broke down the abuses by region: Since 1950, at least 127 children were victimized by 22 Roman Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Denver, at least three children were victimized by two Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, and at least 36 children were victimized by 19 Roman Catholic priests in the Diocese of Pueblo.
According to investigators, no Colorado priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children are currently serving in ministry. Even so, the report warns, “We also know we cannot be positive there are none.”
The report is the latest in a series of local, state and federal investigations into Catholic sex abuse over the past year. Most were launched after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro unveiled a bombshell report from a specially empaneled grand jury in August 2018 that detailed allegations of abuse against 1,000 children by Catholic priests in the state over 70 years.
Weiser told reporters that his department’s involvement with the investigation began after Colorado officials noticed that one of the priests named in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report had been transferred to Colorado. He said he appreciated how Catholic officials in Colorado cooperated with investigators, adding they were “willing to take recommendations that were significant.”
The Colorado attorney general noted that the investigation did not “come from government” or through a grand jury as it did in Pennsylvania. Instead, it was developed after the Catholic Church in the state “came forward” to work with the attorney general and negotiate for a third-party investigation overseen by former United States Attorney Robert Troyer.
“We in Colorado don’t have the same authority that Pennsylvania does,” Weiser said.
In a statement, Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila praised the report and the process that led to its creation.
“We should all be comforted that this investigation spanned seven decades, has been thorough and is transparent,” said the archbishop. “I promised without reservation that I would openly share (Troyer’s) report and adopt his recommendations. I honor that promise today.”
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Source: Religion News Service