Priest Says Religious Order Blocking His Return to Parish
Sex Charges Dropped, Gourley Speaks Out for 1st Time in Quiet, Unpublicized Meeting

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News
March 30, 2000

The Rev. Marshall Gourley never met a microphone he couldn't command. So why isn't he back in front of one by now?

In June, sexual abuse charges against him evaporated, but the once high-profile Denver priest has maintained a carefully ambiguous silence since.

His parents say he works in the medical technology field and uses his bilingual skills to travel on business between the U.S. and Mexico. He responds politely to e-mail only to say now is not the appropriate time for an interview.

But in a quiet, unpublicized meeting in mid-March Gourley told a group of former parishioners that he wants to come back to Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in some capacity, but his religious order is blocking his return.

His carefully worded statement appears to contradict recent statements of the provincial of his Theatine Order, the Rev. Patrick Valdez, who insisted in February that at a meeting with the priest, "Father Marshall is the one who requested time . . . we stand by that statement."

Valdez is out of the country and unavailable for comment.

In Gourley's 800-word statement, which he read in both Spanish and English, he said he wanted to return "in whatever capacity was thought appropriate."

He added that at the February meeting with his order, "it was stated that my return to Guadalupe or any other assignment within the Archdiocese of Denver would be very, very difficult."

Gourley's statement is believed to be his most explicit public response since he was hit with sexual abuse charges in 1997 by former parishioner John Ayon.

Now in his mid-30s, Ayon said he had recalled childhood memories of sexual abuse during therapy sessions. In June a federal appeals court upheld a ruling by Judge Daniel Sparr that Ayon's charges had exceeded the statute of limitations.

Shortly after Ayon filed his lawsuit, Archbishiop Charles Chaput pulled Gourley's priestly faculties, which took away Gourley's ability to function publicly as a priest.

Chaput can restore those faculties only after the priest's superiors - in this case, the Theatine Order - petitions to have it done, according to chancellor Fran Maier.

Gourley's parents say they are bitter at the way their son has been treated by the church.

"The archdiocese uses the Theatines, and the Theatines use the archdiocese, " said Clyde Gourley. "How do you support somebody when (you) strip them of their duties and toss them onto the economy?"

In public, at least, their son is taking a more philosophical approach. In his statement, Gourley said the Theatines "suggested that I take some time to reflect upon and discern the path of future ministry. In response to them and in faithful obedience, I agreed."

He also said: "I also consistently and repeatedly indicated to my superiors that I might be permitted to return to Guadalupe once the case was resolved . . . in whatever capacity was thought appropriate. I never insisted that I return as pastor or in any role which would displace any other priest ... I also felt my re-entry into the active priestly ministry would have to be gradual and over a period of time for many reasons."

He did not elaborate on what those reasons might be.


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