Denver Roman Catholic Sex Abuse Records Request Denied
By Howard Pankratz
November 2, 2006
Five organizations demanded Thursday that Denver Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput release all records about sexually abusive priests and church employees who may have covered up the priests' actions.
But the archdiocese rejected the demands, contained in a letter and made at a Denver news conference, saying the files are confidential.
"Those are personnel files. Those are protected. We want to protect the rights of everyone involved in this," said Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
On Wednesday, the Denver Archdiocese and lawyers who have filed suits alleging sex abuse by clergy on behalf of roughly 30 plaintiffs announced that as many as one-third have agreed to out-of-court settlements with the archdiocese or are close to doing so.
The lawsuits allege sexual misconduct decades ago by former priest Harold Robert White, who was defrocked, and the late Rev. Leonard Abercrombie.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, spoke at Thursday's news conference in front of Denver's City and County Building.
She noted that last weekend Pope Benedict XVI spoke about clergy sex crimes, saying there is an urgent need to rebuild trust and establish the truth of what happened.
"We especially ask that this (release of the documents) be done before and during the settlement talks," Blaine said. "Our concern is that by Archbishop Chaput establishing this mediation process, what he has done he has ensured that all the information remain secret and hidden."
In May, Chaput announced that the archdiocese had hired a former judge as a mediator and committed an undisclosed, "very large" amount of money in an attempt to negotiate lawsuit settlements.
Jeffrey Dion, a director of the Washington-based National Center for Victims of Crime, said only through a complete disclosure can the public be certain the abusers are no longer active in the ministry.
In their letter to Chaput, the organizations said that the "want the truth exposed. They want deeply-held church secrets about clergy crimes made public."
DeMelo said that no priest who has been accused of sexual misconduct is in active ministry in the archdiocese. She encouraged anyone with such an accusation to come forward.
Staff writer Howard Pankratz can be reached at 303-954-1939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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