Colorado Attorney General’s Report
On October 22, 2019, the office of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser released the special master’s report “Roman Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children in Colorado from 1950 to 2019.” You can download the original report here.
A landmark document and investigation in the Child Protection Movement, it contains “substantiated incidents of the sexual abuse of children by ordained Roman Catholic priests in Colorado over the last 70 years” and details how all three Colorado Dioceses – the Archdiocese of Denver, the Diocese of Pueblo, and the Diocese of Colorado Springs—protected themselves and their priests instead of the children entrusted to their care.
Some of its key findings include:
- Failure to Report to Law Enforcement: “Out of almost 100 opportunities to do so since 1950, the Colorado Dioceses voluntarily reported clergy child sex abuse to law enforcement fewer than 10 times,” the Report states. “It is impossible to believe that Church personnel did not know even in 1950 that sexually abusing a person is a serious crime. It is almost as hard to believe — but proven by the documents we reviewed from all the way up to at least the early 1990s — that professionals asserting high moral authority chose to protect their institution and their colleagues over children. We also found evidence from as late as the 1980s that this culture of Church self-protection was reinforced by punishment imposed on Church personnel who did report child sex abuse. The Colorado Dioceses’ advances in training to reduce abuse in the first place, and their procedures for responding to abuse when it does occur, still have not eliminated this persistent problem.”
- Failure to Act Put Kids in Peril: It took an average of 19.5 years before Colorado Dioceses restricted a priest’s authority after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a child, and “Nearly a hundred children were sexually abused in the interim.”
- Transferring Abusers: The Report concluded that “the record we compiled below is flush with examples of the Colorado Dioceses transferring child sex abusers just ahead of the child sex abuse scandals which often generate abuse reports and documentation.”
- Abuse Occurred After Bishops Knew: 97 victims (well over 50 percent of the 166) were sexually abused after the Bishops knew that the perpetrators had sexually abused children previously.
- Secret Code Language: The Report confirmed “the Roman Catholic Church’s long history of silence, self-protection, and secrecy empowered by euphemism. In the past, the Colorado Dioceses have deployed elusive, opaque language to shroud reports and their knowledge of clergy child sex abuse.”
On December 1, 2020, the Attorney General released a “Special Master’s Supplemental Report” which details findings of a consequent investigation of reports made under the Colorado Dioceses joint Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, which began the same month the original report was released. About two-thirds of these newly substantiated child sex abuse incidents were committed by priests already named in the First Report. According to the report:
“Our investigation confirmed the observations we presented in the First Report about the 3 Colorado dioceses’ historical handling of child sex abuse claims, accused priests, and victims. Specifically, these incidents provide further evidence 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. The relevant dioceses’ handling of the 9 newly named priests does not follow the same pattern. This is because the relevant diocese immediately suspended the newly accused priest, or because the priest was already dead when the diocese first learned he was an abuser.”
You can download the supplemental report here.
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We encourage all survivors of child sexual abuse by priests, other Catholic clergy, or employees of the Catholic Church in Colorado to consult with legal counsel before proceeding with a claim. We have a reputation for being the best at what we do, and that begins and ends with our ability to support, protect and guide you along your journey towards justice and healing. Your identity and information will remain completely confidential.