Archdiocese of Denver

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Coat of Arms for the Archdiocese of Denver

The Diocese of Denver was created by Pope Leo XIII in 1887. Originally, a part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Denver didn’t become an archdiocese until 1941.

In February 2019, the Archdiocese of Denver along with the Colorado diocese of Pueblo and Colorado Springs agreed to a joint voluntary agreement with the Colorado Attorney General for two initiatives to address the history of sexual abuse of minors within the Church.

According to the press release announcing the initiative, “Attorney General Weiser and the Bishops have engaged an independent third-party to review the files of the three Dioceses related to the sexual abuse of minors, to interview witnesses as needed, and to prepare a public report on his findings. This is not a criminal investigation and we are not aware of any previously unreported criminal conduct. If the review discovers any criminal conduct, it will be immediately reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities and included in the public report. The Attorney General’s office will make resources available to district attorney offices as needed for them to evaluate any potentially criminal issues. This will be an independent review conducted by Robert Troyer, the former U.S. Attorney for Colorado, with the full voluntary cooperation of the three Dioceses.

Mr. Troyer’s public report is expected to be released by the fall of 2019. To protect the privacy of victims, his report will not identify victims of abuse by name. The report will include:

• The names of Diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors;

• Details of the substantiated allegations of abuse, including the assignments of abusive priests and the years during which abuse is alleged to have occurred;

• A review of the historic response of the three Dioceses to allegations of abuse; and,

• A review of the Dioceses’ current policies and procedures for preventing abuse and responding to allegations of abuse.

Half of the fees for Mr. Troyer’s work will be paid by the Dioceses. The other half will be paid by private donors identified by the Attorney General’s office. At their request, the donors will remain anonymous.

Additionally, the three Colorado Dioceses will fund an independent, voluntary reparations program developed and administered by two nationally recognized claims administrations experts, Mr. Kenneth R. Feinberg and Ms. Camille S. Biros. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros will review individual cases, including cases that are barred by the statute of limitations, and make financial awards to victims who elect to participate.

The program will be wholly independent of the Colorado Dioceses. Under this program, each claim will be assessed by Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros, and an award of compensation will be made. While the victim is free to accept or reject the award rendered, the Colorado Dioceses are bound by the award. The Colorado Dioceses commit to pay all awards made to victims by Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros.

To ensure its independence, the program will be overseen by an independent committee chaired by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown.

In connection with the reparations program, a separate and independent victims’ support service will be created with professionals who can discuss the reparations program, hear stories of victims/survivors, assist claimants in answering the questions about the reparations program, and provide support in submitting the necessary documentation to the program. After Mr. Feinberg’s determination, the service will be available upon request by the claimant to help connect them with resources in their area for future care.

The Bishops and Attorney General Weiser agree that this program must accept claims through the public release of the report of the independent reviewer and a reasonable period of time thereafter. To allow Mr. Troyer to complete his work, the program will not start until later this year. Additional details regarding the program will be forthcoming.

While lists 20 priests who’ve abused children in the Archdiocese of Denver, some of those belong to religious orders and are beyond the scope of the investigation.  However, more priests are likely to be named after the investigation is completed in the fall of 2019.   

The Archdiocese of Denver, like other archdioceses and dioceses, knew of abusive priests and transferred them to other parishes or to different dioceses.  In some cases, the Denver Archdiocese admitted priests into their territory with a history of sexual abuse of minors.

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Map of Archdiocese of Denver

Father Harold Robert White – ordained in 1960 for the Archdiocese of Denver, White began abusing children from the outset of his priestly ministry and the Archdiocese knew about it.  According to the Denver Post, “Diocesan officials knew in the 1960s of White’s ‘boy troubles,’ and at least some officials believed even then that such men ‘carried the affliction with them to the grave.’

The archdiocese, although aware of allegations against White in 1960 and thereafter, did not report them to law enforcement. Instead, whenever growing numbers of people became aware of White’s problems in one parish or city, archdiocese officials determined, according to file correspondence, that it was time to transfer White to another parish. White worked in 10 different parishes over two decades.”

White, stripped of his priesthood by the Vatican in 2004, died in November 2006 at age 73 while vacationing in Cancún, Mexico — before ever testifying.

The release of White’s file was part of a $5.5 million settlement of 18 cases announced Tuesday. Since lawsuits over child sexual abuse in the Denver Archdiocese began in 2005, White’s cases have accounted for two-thirds of the total of 45.

The total settlement figure to date is about $8.3 million.

The archdiocese’s Chancery Office stated in a December 1961 letter about White to an unidentified recipient that “the possibility of a cure for such a tendency” was “questionable.”

This letter referenced complaints by parents that White, while assigned to St. Catherine Parish in Denver, made a pass at their son.

The boy’s father approached a cleric about the allegation, and the cleric “appealed to the family to cooperate in an effort to protect the church against scandal and to help the priest (White) save his future.”

An archdiocese official and this priest, whose names are blacked out, agreed to save White’s priesthood, subject to higher approval.

The supervising priest, the letter said, “told (White) he will not tolerate any repetition of such actions.”

The priest further advised White to “control his passions, and be prudent about putting himself in the occasion of sin.”

According to White’s file, sometime between 1961 and 1963, an official of St. Catherine’s Church wrote in note form after a conversation with the offending priest that White “was very much upset, that talk was going around among the boys very much exaggerated.”

“(White) declared that he had made some serious mistakes, all he wanted to do was to help the boys, with boys in his car has urge to put hand on thigh, when alone with some boy overwhelming curiosity comes over him,” the notes said.

The cleric also noted that he had ordered White the year before “never to be alone with a boy.”

In 1963, an archdiocese official said that an unnamed higher-up’s judgment was that White “must leave the parish immediately, and that he could not work again as a priest in the city of Denver because of widespread knowledge of his offenses in St. Catherine’s Parish and Holy Family School.”

White was told to make a prayerful retreat and “attempt to recover his priestly character and ideals.”

Other memos report that at least some parishes were warned not to let White work with children.

Yet White would work as an assistant pastor at St. Mary Parish in Colorado Springs, St. Anthony Parish in Sterling, St. John Parish in Loveland, St. Patrick Parish in Minturn and St. Mary Parish in Aspen, where incidents of sexual molestation occurred.

White later worked, between 1981 and 1993, at Good Shepherd in Denver, Saints Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge, St. Anne’s in Grand Lake, Holy Name Church in Steamboat Springs and, again, at St. Patrick Parish in Minturn.

The archdiocese said there is no evidence of abuse by White after 1981.

White voluntarily left active ministry in 1993 at age 60.

Father Timothy Joseph Evans – ordained in 1993 for the Archdiocese of Denver.  Evans was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of 3 boys from 1995-1997 and 1999. He was removed from active ministry in 2003. He pleaded innocent to all charges. He was found guilty in 1 trial in 03/07 and then found guilty in another county in 2nd trial in 04/07.  Evans was sentenced to 14 years to life in May 2007 with 4 more years added 1 day later in another case.