3 More Clergy Lawsuits Are Filed
Archdiocese Sued over Sex Abuse. The Cases Include What Is Thought to
Be the First in the State Involving the Late Rev. Leonard Abercrombie
By Eric Gorski
September 21, 2005
The Denver Roman Catholic Archdiocese, already the target of numerous
lawsuits for its handling of a priest accused of molesting children decades
ago, was sued again Tuesday, this time by a 46-year-old law enforcement
officer bringing accusations against another priest.
Roger Colburn of Strasburg alleges in a Denver District Court complaint
that the late Rev. Leonard Abercrombie, a trusted family friend, got him
drunk and molested him in 1969 or 1970 while camping in Granby when Colburn
was 10 or 11.
|Roger Colburn is filing suit against the
Denver Archdiocese, alleging abuse by the late Rev. Leonard Abercrombie.
(Post / Will Singleton)
The lawsuit, without offering details, alleges the abuse took place
after the Denver Archdiocese had fielded other complaints against Abercrombie.
The complaint is thought to be the first in Colorado naming Abercrombie,
who died in 1994 in Southern California, where he retired. Three men,
including Colburn, told The Denver Post this month that Abercrombie had
sexually abused them.
He also is accused of molesting two children in Southern California, where
he moved in the 1970s for unexplained reasons to work as a hospital chaplain.
In addition, two other lawsuits were filed Tuesday against the Denver
Archdiocese involving the Rev. Harold Robert White. That brings to nine
the number of lawsuits involving the 72- year-old White, who was defrocked
last year by the Vatican for unknown reasons.
One plaintiff, a John Doe, claims he was 21 when White sexually assaulted
him in a room the man had rented at a Minturn parish rectory. The other
plaintiff, Pat Hergenreter of Sterling, alleges White molested him in
a church sacristy.
White, in a TV interview, described the allegations against him as "half-truths."
In two months, the Denver Archdiocese has gone from largely avoiding the
scandal of abuse and coverup that has plagued other U.S. Catholic dioceses
to facing the kind of financial threat that has paralyzed dioceses in
Boston, Tucson, Portland, Ore., and elsewhere.
Fran Maier, chancellor of the archdiocese, reiterated the message that
anyone victimized should contact the archdiocese.
"We are very concerned about anyone who has been hurt and will address
that," Maier said, adding that he won't discuss individual allegations
in the media.
Jeff Herman, the Miami lawyer who brought Tuesday's three lawsuits, said
the Denver Archdiocese has said it will try to move the lawsuits from
state to federal court.
He speculated that it would be easier for the archdiocese to argue for
dismissal in federal court.
In a court filing last week, the archdiocese alluded to a potential consolidation
of the lawsuits and "resolving which forum is appropriate for these
Maier declined to discuss the potential change in venue but said Denver
Archbishop Charles Chaput has offered plaintiffs a chance to discuss their
experiences with the archdiocese.