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  Suit Claims Repressed Memory
California Man Says Priest Molested Him As Schoolboy at Abbey in Canon City

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
February 18, 2005

A California man has filed a repressed memory lawsuit against a religious order and the Pueblo Catholic diocese, claiming he was molested by a priest who committed suicide 13 years ago.

Wayne Dennis Corder sued the Diocese of Pueblo and the Benedictine order of priests last November. He charged that a teacher, the Rev. Richard Chung, sexually abused him in 1982 while he was a 14-year-old attending Holy Cross Abbey, a Benedictine boarding school in Canon City.

Chung, 40, killed himself in 1992, one day after he was suspended from his teaching job at a Catholic high school in Colorado Springs while officials investigated another sex abuse allegation by a student. The priest asphyxiated himself by sitting in his garage with the car engine running.

Corder's 2004 suit claims the Catholic leadership "had an unwritten policy of condoning pedophilia at the Abbey school."

"Nonsense," said attorney Jack Donley, who represents the Benedictines. He declined further comment. The Diocese of Pueblo said no one was available for comment.

The suit also names the Archdiocese of Denver, which has filed for a dismissal from the case because it has no jurisdiction over the Pueblo diocese, said spokesman Sergio Gutierrez.

This week the Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs dioceses reported abuse allegations made in 2004, a procedure developed by the nation's bishops to identify and halt sex abuse in local dioceses.

Denver reported eight priests were targeted by allegations - with the most recent incident taking place in the 1990s - and Pueblo reportedly said it had three complaints. Colorado Springs reported none.

Corder's is the only civil sex abuse case filed against any Catholic institution in Colorado since the scandal erupted in 2002, said Martin Nussbaum, an attorney whose Colorado Springs firm specializes in representing religious institutions across the country.

He is not aware of any criminal cases. "If anything was filed (criminally), I would know," he said.

"The real story here is not there's been another old claim filed; the real story is while there's 670 cases against Boston (Archdiocese) and over 1,000 in California filed during that same period of time, there's only one filed against any Catholic institution in Colorado," Nussbaum said. "I think that shows good shepherding (by bishops) in Colorado."

The state tallies were released to coincide with an update on the church's national charter to protect young people, which is being released today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The report will detail how well the nation's dioceses did in identifying and preventing sex abuse in 2004. The first such report was released early last year and included sex abuse data since 1950.

The 2004 count encompasses all "credible complaints" made to church officials last year. Virtually all of the 2004 Colorado cases involve alleged incidents decades old, as is Corder's case.

The complaints are then passed on to appropriate civil authorities - police or sheriff's departments - for investigation. District attorneys would not be notified unless the law enforcement agencies forwarded charges.

Calls this week to district attorneys representing 20 counties in the Denver Archdiocese indicate none has processed any cases involving priests.

A spokesman for the 13th Judicial District, which serves the remaining four counties in the archdiocese - Washington, Yuma, Morgan and Logan - was not available for comment.

Corder didn't file his complaint until last year, after his recollection of the abuse returned in 2003, according to the complaint. His attorney was not available Thursday for comment.

"Throughout his adult life, (Corder) has struggled to control anger and to overcome feelings of low self-esteem, which seemed to lack specific cause," the suit says.

Corder was a shy 14-year-old who was uncomfortable bathing with other students in the dormitory, the complaint said. Chung, a chaplain and dorm adviser, suggested the boy could bathe in his room.

Regular abuse began, the complaint says. Corder also alleges that Chung caused his grades to drop so that he would be forced to visit the priest in his room for tutoring.

When the boy went home to Denver on school break, Chung visited the Corder home, where the molestations allegedly continued, it says.

 
 

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