Claims alleging abuse by Colorado priests settled
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle 18 more claims by people who said they were sexually abused by priests when they were children.
The agreements, announced Tuesday, bring to 43 the number of sex-abuse allegations the archdiocese has settled since 2005, for a total of $8.2 million. Two suits remain unresolved.
The archdiocese also agreed to a long-standing demand by some of the plaintiffs to release files on one former priest who was accused in 16 of the newly settled claims.
“It is my hope that these settlements help the victims and their families to heal,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said.
For the second time since March, Chaput publicly apologized to all the victims, saying the church was “mortified and embarrassed.” He said he had apologized in person to victims who agreed to meet with him.
The settlements announced Tuesday cover 16 lawsuits and two complaints made outside the court system. The allegations were made against three priests, all of whom have since died, church officials said.
The archdiocese identified the men as Harold Robert White, Leonard Abercrombie and Lawrence St. Peter.
Abercrombie died in 1994 but it wasn’t clear if he was still a priest at the time. St. Peter had not been publicly identified before, and no information has been disclosed about him.
White was removed from ministry in 1993 and died of a heart attack in 2006. In his only public comment on the matter, he said the allegation contained “half truths.”
The archdiocese released its files on White on Tuesday. Chaput said they showed no evidence he abused anyone after 1981.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented 14 victims, said the records show the archdiocese knew of complaints against White as early as 1960 but still moved him from parish to parish.
“White was a serial offender who wasn’t able to control himself,” Anderson said. “The officials of the archdiocese could’ve controlled him by reporting him to police, by warning parishioners.”
One of Anderson’s clients, Tom Koldeway, said White began abusing him when he was about 9. He said his older brother and sister also were abused, though they did not tell each other until they were adults.
Koldeway said the files showed the archdiocese knew of complaints against White dating back to before Koldeway was born.
“They concealed him. They enabled him to be what he was,” said Koldeway, whose case was included in the settlements announced Tuesday.
Chaput said many of the decisions archdiocesan officials made regarding White would be different today. Those church officials have all died, he said.
“We cannot undo the sins and failures of the past. Neither can we undo the suffering these events caused,” Chaput said.
He said current policy forbids anyone who is the subject of a credible allegation of sexually abusing a minor from working in active ministry in the archdiocese. It also requires that the archdiocese immediately report credible allegations to law enforcement and remove the accused person from ministry.
The archdiocese also has trained about 77,000 priests, deacons, seminarians, employees, students and volunteers on warnings signs and how to protect children from sexual abuse.
Chaput said “archdiocesan assets” would be used to pay the settlements. He said no real estate has been sold to cover the expenses, though the archdiocese said the settlements would affect the church in northern Colorado and charitable work it can provide.
Church officials previously have said they set aside an undisclosed “very large” sum for settlements.
The archdiocese said it has offered mediation in the two unresolved cases, which involve allegations against Abercrombie and another priest, Thomas Barry, also deceased.
Chaput said he hopes the settlements open a path for the victims to return to the Catholic church one day.
Randy Becker, 47, whose allegations against White were among the cases covered by Tuesday’s announcement, said the church has lost him.
“I still have faith in Jesus Christ, but I’ve really totally lost my faith in the Catholic church,” he said.