Group asks church to change mediation offer in abuse allegations


DENVER – An advocacy group asked the Denver Archdiocese on Friday to change and expand its offer to have mediators negotiate settlements with people who say they have been molested by priests.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) wants church officials to disclose approximately how much money they have allocated for settlements, disclose the names of “potentially dangerous predators” and extend the Aug. 25 deadline for agreeing to participate.

The group also wants church officials not to fight any lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse on grounds the statute of limitations on such claims has expired – a defense the group calls a technicality.

“I have never seen a bishop say that’s not what Jesus did. It’s what Enron may do, but it’s not what Jesus would do,” said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP.

Under Colorado’s statute of limitations, people who say they were sexually abused as children only have until age 24 to sue. SNAP supported an unsuccessful effort to lift the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse cases at the state Legislature this year. State lawmakers did agree to get rid of the deadline for filing criminal charges against an alleged child molester.

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, last month, said the church had set aside an undisclosed amount of money and hired an arbitration group to negotiate settlements with about 30 people who have filed lawsuits saying they were sexually assaulted by priests. Chaput set a three-month deadline for the accusers to decide whether to participate.

Jeanette DeMelo, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, declined comment on SNAP’s statements. She said the group didn’t tell the archdiocese they were holding a press conference or forward its requests to officials.

“The media isn’t the forum to come to terms on something like this,” she said.

Clohessy said the archdiocese should allow the 30 lawsuits filed against it to move forward on their merits so that victims can make a better choice about how to proceed. For example, he said victims dealing with drug or alcohol abuse because of the alleged abuse may want to enter mediation in order to get some money for their treatment while others may find it more important to seek church documents in court.