Further investigation of the Colorado Catholic Church finds an additional 9 abusive priests, another 46 victims

For two years, Father James Moreno sexually abused a teenage boy dozens of times after meeting at a Catholic school in Denver — including the parish of the city’s best-known church.

Moreno abused the boy more than 60 times between 1978 and 1980. He was nursed, given alcohol and marijuana, and raped, according to a report released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday.

The abuse took place throughout Denver: in the rooms of St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary High School, in Moreno’s car, in the boy’s home, in the parish building of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the heart of Denver, one block from the State Capitol. .

The now-adult woman reported the abuse to authorities last year after the announcement of a state investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Colorado. Further investigation into the three Catholic dioceses in Colorado found nine more priests who sexually abused children, including Moreno, a Denver priest and poor advocate, Father Woody, and another 46 victims of the abusive priests, ending a nearly two-year state investigation into the church. .

According to an independent investigator employed by the Colorado Public Prosecutor’s Office and the diocese, the new abuse cases in Tuesday’s supplementary report increase the number of known abusive priests in Colorado to 52 and the number of children abused by them to 212. . The investigator, former U.S. attorney Bob Troyer, made his original findings public in October 2019, but continued the investigation as more survivors appeared after the first report was released.

“The work we need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said at a news conference Tuesday, noting he didn’t expect to release any more reports.

More than half of the 212 children were abused after church leaders became aware of allegations that the priest abused the children. Several of the children were under the age of 10 when a priest began abusing them.

“More specifically, these events provide further evidence that dioceses have historically allowed priests to sexually abuse children by transferring abusive priests to new parishes; does not take any measures to restrict their service or access to children; secrecy of priests’ behavior, lack of euphemism and documentation; silence of victims; and did not report the abuse to law enforcement, ”Troyer wrote in a supplementary report released Tuesday.

Newly identified priests

Five of the priests named for the first time on Tuesday worked in Denver Archdiocese: Moreno, Kenneth Funk, Daniel Kelleher, Gregory Smith, and Charles Woodrich, who was well known in Denver for serving the poor — handing out $ 10 bills at Christmas — and helping establish the Samaritan House homeless shelter.

Three survivors came forward and were told that Woodrich, who is called Father Woody, cared for and abused them in the late 1970s and 1980s. One of the boys was 12 years old when the abuse began and said Woodrich reportedly abused him at least once a month for six years while Pastor Woodrich was a pastor at the Holy Spirit Parish in Denver. Woodrich died in 1991.

The other four priests named in the supplementary report worked in the Diocese of Pueblo: Marvin Kapushion, Duane Repola, Carlos Trujillo, and Joseph Walsh. Both Kapushion and Walsh abused children living in the Sacred Heart Orphanage while working as counselors for the children there. According to the report, two of Walsh’s known victims were between the ages of 4 and 7 when he began abusing them.

At least six of the nine newly identified abusive priests have died. According to the report, Moreno, who is alive, admitted to abusing the teenager when faced in late 2019. He retired from the Archdiocese of Denver 16 years ago and remains ordained, although Church officials are working to formally remove him from the priesthood.

All the abuse Troyer found occurred between 1951 and 1999. The majority happened in the 1960s.

“We also hope that this process has shown our commitment to further strengthening and strengthening our child protection policy so that the sins of the past are not repeated,” the three bishops of the diocese said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “We are grateful for the work the special master has done to thoroughly analyze our protocols and make sure they meet the highest standards of institutions serving young people.”

In his supplementary report, Troyer paid tribute to the dioceses for implementing all the systemic changes recommended in the 2019 report. Each diocese has established an independent investigation system, suspended priests accused of child sexual abuse, hired victim support coordinators, improved record keeping, and improved communication that encourages people to report abuses to law enforcement. Each diocese has agreed to have its child protection systems regularly inspected by a third party.

“These important developments seem to be well-founded,” Troyer wrote. “At this point, however, they have largely not been tested.”

There is no enforcement mechanism to ensure that dioceses continue to use the new systems, although Weiser said the publicity of dioceses promises this and that failure to keep these promises would further undermine the credibility of the church.

“Sad from the pain they suffered”

The Colorado investigation followed similar reports in other states, although the scope of the investigation was more limited here than elsewhere. The Colorado attorney general does not have the power to convene a large jury to investigate the abuse of priests, which means the agency had to negotiate with the dioceses for access.

Troyer had no power to subordinate records or force testimonies, instead relying on documents provided by the dioceses that agreed to give him full access. The review also did not include allegations that priests abuse adults or priests who work for a religious order instead of a diocese.

“I’m not going to say this is the perfect approach … but we believe it’s effective,” Weiser said.