Denver bishops release number of sexual-abuse cases, commit to zero tolerance

Two days before the release of the national survey on sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the U.S. Church, the Archbishop of Denver issued a letter indicating the number of substantiated abuse cases in the diocese.

The Feb. 25 letter, signed by Archbishop Charles Chaput and Auxiliary Bishop Jose Gomez, also emphasized the diocese’s commitment to maintain a zero-tolerance policy regarding allegations of abuse.

The results of the unprecedented national survey, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and released Feb. 27, indicated that 109,694 clergy served in the U.S. between 1950 and 2002. Of these, about four percent or 4,392 were accused of sexual abuse. The total number of abuse claims in that period was 10,667.

The letter, issued by the Archdiocese of Denver, offered the faithful here a better understanding of the prevalence of sexual abuse in the diocese and the ways in which the problems were being handled.

The letter indicated that 1,402 priests served the Archdiocese of Denver between 1950 and 2002. Of these, 647 were diocesan priests. In this period, allegations against seven priests (or about 1.1 percent of priests) were substantiated. These cases involved 21 victims.

"This is a painful statistic, but it reinforces our resolve to prevent this terrible sin in the future," said the letter.

Since 1950, the archdiocese paid $997,730 in counseling and settlement costs in connection with allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

"All of these funds have come from insurance," the bishops assured. "No Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal funds have been used for this purpose."

During the same period, 755 religious order priests served in the archdiocese. However, all allegations made against religious order priests were referred to the priest’s order for investigation.

"No priest with a record of sexual misconduct with children is in ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver," the bishops assured.

"We want to reconfirm that the Archdiocese of Denver does not and will not tolerate any abuse of a child by any member of the clergy or any Church employee," said the bishops. "It is important to note that any credible allegation against a priest, diocesan or religious, results in his immediate removal from ministry."

The letter also informed the faithful of the archdiocese’s policy that requires criminal background checks for all clergy, church employees and seminarians. In addition, "psychological screenings and careful formation in priestly chastity play a key role in our seminary training,"said the letter. "Safe environment programs will be an important element of our Church life into the future."

Last month the Archdiocese of Denver reported that it was found in full compliance with all of the provisions of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the USCCB in June of that year.

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