Following the dismissal of a sexual abuse claim against a deceased priest in the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Charles Chaput issued a statement saying he was “saddened” by the false allegations.
The Denver Catholic Register reported today that in 2009, a woman with the pseudonym “Jane Doe” accused Msgr. William Higgins – a priest who died in 1967 at the age of 77 – of sexually abusing her in the 1960s.
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo told the Register that when the complaint was received last year, “we responded immediately.”
“We took the accusation seriously despite the fact that the priest died 42 years ago, and that the charges did not seem plausible,” DeMelo explained. “We reached out to the alleged victim as we do in all such cases. We invited her to participate in our victim outreach panel and offered assistance to her, with the hope for healing.”
“Unfortunately, the woman rejected the archdiocese’s offer to help her through mediation and as a result the lawsuit moved forward,” the spokeswoman said. “It was during the usual extensive investigation and formal discovery process of civil litigation that the plaintiff’s complaint was found to be false and the charges were proven groundless.”
On June 25 of this year, the “plaintiff then dismissed all claims.”
In a statement issued on July 13, Archbishop Chaput said that he and the entire archdiocese were “saddened” by the false charges.
“If Msgr. Higgins were alive today, he would be in good standing and able to minister in the archdiocese,” the archbishop affirmed. “False charges do inexcusable harm to a priest's good name, his reputation earned over years of service to others, and to the lay Catholic faithful and other dedicated priests.”
“We are saddened that such a charge was made, but want you all to know that you can esteem Msgr. Higgins and keep him in your prayers as a righteous man,” the prelate added.
“As we work to ensure all people in the Archdiocese of Denver are safe, so too are we determined to defend the reputation of the many, many innocent good men and women who work in the archdiocese and give so much to others,” he concluded.