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Joseph H. Saunders
| Saunders and Walker

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has concluded his investigation into the three Catholic dioceses in Colorado and has issued a report on his findings.

It chronicled the abuse of 166 children at the hands of 43 priests across the state since 1950, with most of the acts committed by just five priests who abused 102 children.

Unlike the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report issued more than a year earlier, the Colorado report was met with criticism.  Victims’ groups called it toothless and faulted its reliance on the voluntary participation of the Roman Catholic Church, which the report itself accused of a decades-long effort to hide potentially criminal activity from parishioners and the authorities.

The report said that instances of abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, but investigators said that because of shortcomings in church record-keeping and reporting practices they could not be sure the abuse was not continuing today.

The report was the result of an investigation commissioned by Phil Weiser, the Colorado attorney general, and led by Bob Troyer, a former United States attorney for Colorado. It came amid a cascade of similar revelations over the past year across the country, as prosecutors investigated past abuse and dioceses themselves released information about accused abusers.

As a result of an agreement forged between the Attorney General’s office and the three Catholic dioceses, the investigation and subsequent report did not consider religious order priests or the activity of priests prior to their ordination.  Essentially, the report is drawn from what could be gleaned from the diocesan files.  There is no way of knowing if the dioceses provided all the documents since in other instances, the Church has hidden certain documents or destroyed them.

According to the NY Times, “The report said that there were at least 100 occasions since 1950 when church officials received information about child sex abuse that they could have reported to the police, but that they chose to do so fewer than 10 times.

That was driven by ‘a strong culture of reluctance’ to report allegations that might harm the reputation of the church or a fellow priest and it was reinforced, as late as the 1980s, by punishment meted out to those who did report child sex abuse to the authorities, the report said.

One priest was convicted in 2007 of assaulting a child and was removed from the priesthood in 2013, the report said. But it said the statute of limitations meant there was little that could be done to prosecute other abusers now.”

The report said two cases of grooming a child for abuse, or taking actions to build trust that could later be exploited, had been reported since 2000. The most recent was in 2011, it said.

Dioceses took an average of 19.5 years to take action against a priest after they were informed of a sexual abuse allegation, and more than half of the victims were abused by a priest after the church had already been notified of an allegation against him. Seven abusers faced no repercussions at all during their lifetimes, the report said.

Once again, the Catholic Church is only as transparent as it suits them.  They are allowed to police themselves in spite of the fact other AG reports have characterized them as a criminal enterprise.  Anything short of full transparency and disclosure is a miscarriage of justice.

If you or a loved one have been sexually abused by a Colorado Catholic priest, contact survivor advocate and attorney Joe Saunders for a confidential consultation.

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