Priest Accused of Abuse
Suit claims molestation by Denver church leader

By John C. Ensslin
Rocky Mountain News
September 9, 1997

A San Diego man filed a suit Tuesday against Father Marshall Gourley, alleging that the well-known priest sexually molested him in Denver when the man was a teen-ager.

John Dean Ayon, 32, accused Gourley of molesting him from June 1981 to June 1984. Ayon had sought counseling from Gourley at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Denver, the suit says.

The lawsuit does not include specifics about the alleged abuse or where it occurred.

Today, Gourley, 48, is a much-loved pastor of the Catholic church, at 1209 W. 36th Ave., and a passionate voice for those living in inner-city neighborhoods. Ayon is a Harvard Law School graduate practicing civil law in California.

Neither Gourley nor the Archdiocese of Denver, also named in the suit, was available for comment Monday. Ayon's office referred calls to his attorney.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, Ayon seeks unspecified damages for psychological pain and mental anguish. The lawsuit says the abuse caused Ayon to lose his faith in God and resulted in the ''murder of his soul.''

Windle Turley, a Dallas lawyer representing Ayon, represented 8 of 11 plaintiffs who won a $119.6 million verdict this summer in a an abuse lawsuit against the Catholic Archdiocese of Dallas.

Ayon never took his allegations to Denver police, Turley said. But he did notify officials of the archdiocese before filing the lawsuit, he said.

The 16-page complaint also names Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, alleging he and the archdiocese were negligent in allowing Gourley to be in contact with minors when they ''knew or should have known he was a dangerous sexual predator.''

Gourley became a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1982. Before being ordained, he was a deacon in the church.

Gourley helped pioneer Denver's gun-buyback program in 1988. He fasted for 26 days in the summer of 1993 to protest gang violence.


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