In a continuing battle against what many of the state’s faithful call an unfair bias against Catholics, the Archdiocese of Denver has uncovered a previously unseen, but sordid list of sexual abuses by many of Colorado’s public school teachers.
The Archdiocese has lifted the lid on some 85 Colorado Department of Education reports of sexual impropriety among teachers since 1997. Reportedly, the state had revoked or denied teaching licenses, all for reasons involving sexual misconduct with minors. But critics charge, the punishment ended there.
According to a report in Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, the list revealed teachers “who prey on grade-schoolers, plying them with love notes…Teachers who download pornography on their desktop computers while students sit before them…Teachers who encourage students to meet them surreptitiously after school, on out-of-town trips, and who give them marijuana or alcohol in exchange for sex.”
Recently, all three of Colorado’s bishops blasted proposed state legislation which seeks to eliminate or modify statutes of limitation allowing sexual abuse victims to wait up to 40 years before filing suits against Catholic and other private institutions in the state.
The problem, they say, is that the bills would unequally punish the Catholic Church while public school teachers and coaches accused of abuse would--because of state sovereignty laws--be all but exempt.
In a letter, read last week to all parishioners in the Archdiocese, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput said that every one of the proposed pieces of legislation “ignores the serious problem of sexual abuse in public schools and other public institutions, and focuses instead on religious and private organizations.”
“In other words,” he said, “some Colorado legislators seem determined to be harsh when it comes to Catholic and other private institutions, and much softer when it comes to their own public institutions, including public schools. And it will be families, including Catholic families, who suffer.”
The bill’s sponsors--led by state Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald argue that there is no anti-Catholic intent in the bills, but even the state’s secular newspapers and talk radio hosts question that assessment.
Rocky Mountain News columnist Vincent Carroll, wrote recently that special legislation aimed squarely at the Church “would be entirely out of line and Senate presidents never toy with anything so improper.”
He pointed out however, that the “only allegations Fitz-Gerald or anyone else seems to mention in relation to her legislation involve the church. And that the only organization already targeted by a smoothly functioning coalition of high-powered plaintiffs' attorneys and victim groups is the church.”
Archbishop Chaput has called this “an extremely serious moment” for the Church in Colorado and has encouraged the state’s faithful to contact their local representatives and demand an end to what he sees as terribly biased bills.