Man: Abuse Claim Led to Hush Money
Now 36, He Alleges Priest in Englewood Assaulted Him in '83
By Felix Doligosa
Rocky Mountain News
October 22, 2005
The 13-year-old boy only wanted to use the office phone at All Souls Catholic Church to tell his girlfriend about his sister's wedding.
He heard the door shut behind him. He turned around, and saw the priest lock the door and walk toward him. He shook the priest's hand and thanked him for use of the phone.
Then, he said, the priest fondled him.
"I didn't know what to do," said the man, who is now 36.
He said he was abused by the Rev. Mark Matson, 57, who has been convicted of sex offenses in another case. He also believes the priest's religious order gave him money to stay quiet.
The man said the abuse started on his sister's wedding day in 1983 and continued for several months while Matson worked at the Englewood parish.
The man told his story to Englewood police last January and to the Rocky Mountain News this month. The Englewood police report said the incident is beyond the statute of limitations.
The man asked that his identity not be revealed because he lives in Florence, a town of about 3,700 in southern Colorado, and has not told his wife. The News generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault unless they agree to be identified.
The man stepped forward after reading recent news accounts of other men who have filed lawsuits claiming they were assaulted by Colorado clergy. There are 11 lawsuits alleging that the Archdiocese of Denver knew about abuse by two former priests and did not intervene.
Matson was a priest for the Theatine Fathers, a San Luis-based religious order in southern Colorado that serves in the Archdiocese of Denver. The man said he complained to the Theatines last spring. The Rev. Patrick Valdez, the order's provincial, sympathized with him and offered to help.
The man said he then received a check for $7,500 followed by a check for $15,000 from the Theatine Fathers. A copy of one of the checks has the notation "Help from the Theatine Fathers."
Valdez said he knows of the accuser but would not confirm that checks were written to him. He said he's not at liberty to talk about people he has counseled. "It's between me and him."
The man said he is on disability and accepted the money because he needed it to pay for medical bills.
But, he said, "It's hush money. I told Valdez a lawyer contacted me about filing a lawsuit. Then he wrote me a check."
The alleged victim said a Denver attorney contacted him after he filed a police report.
"The money doesn't matter now," he said. "I just want an apology. I want to be treated like a human."
The man said memories of Matson emerged during counseling sessions after a back injury that forced him into unemployment.
"When you can't busy yourself and you're alone, you start thinking about everything," he said.
As the memories surfaced, he soured on the church. He stopped attending Sunday Mass. None of his four sons have been baptized in the Catholic Church. He said his parents became worried about him.
"My parents are strong Catholics," he said. "I was afraid they wouldn't believe me. They did, and they helped me contact the archdiocese."
In November 2004, he called Nancy Walla, the Denver liaison to the U.S. Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection. Neither she nor Denver Archdiocese Chancellor Fran Maier returned phone messages asking for comment. The church does not comment on sexual abuse allegations, said Jeanette DeMelo, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.
The accuser said Walla offered free counseling, but he rejected it because he wanted an apology from Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput. According to the man, Walla told him the archdiocese has washed its hands of Matson and directed him to Theatine Fathers.
According to the archdiocese's code of conduct rules in handling sexual abuse allegations against religious orders, "Under canon law, members of religious institutes serving in the Archdiocese belong to communities separate from the Archdiocese of Denver and are responsible to their own religious superiors."
In November 2004, Walla wrote to Valdez. "We have informed (the man) that, because Father Matson was a member of the Theatine Fathers, the allegation needs to be reported to you as the superior of the order," according to a letter provided by the man.
On Feb. 8, Chaput wrote the man, saying, "I am grateful that you have informed us of the situation." Chaput promised to pray for the alleged victim, according to the letter, which was also provided.
"I felt I was betrayed by Chaput," he said. "If the archbishop would have only talked to me, man to man, I wouldn't have said anything."
He said he intends to file a lawsuit against the Theatine Fathers and the Denver Archdiocese. "It's not about the money," he said. "I feel bad that if I didn't come forward sooner, more people wouldn't have been abused."
Matson graduated from the St. Thomas Seminary College in 1972 and was ordained a priest four years later, according to Jefferson County court records. He served at several churches in Colorado and transferred to Hawaii sometime in the 1990s, said Sheila Miyamoto, All Souls liturgy director.
In 1990, Matson faced charges of sexually assaulting a teen in Santa Rosa, Calif. Matson was acquitted. That same year, Matson was accused of fondling two teenage boys in Golden and giving them alcohol. Prosecutors dropped the case after the credibility of the alleged victims came into question.
Before his trial in Jefferson County, Matson was scheduled to study for his theology doctorate at the John Paul II Institute in Rome, according to court papers. The clergyman had directed youth rallies and produced videos for teenagers on topics such as suicide and AIDS.
In Hawaii, Matson worked as a chaplain at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. In 2000, a jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy, said Jim Fulton, executive assistant to the prosecutor of the city and county of Honolulu. Matson is serving a 20-year sentence. He did not respond to a letter seeking comment.
The man said he told two priests and Miyamoto about the assaults in 1983.
"I have no recollection of that name" she said of the man.
"It (sexual assaults) made me doubt my faith and made me wonder about my sexuality while growing up," said the man, now the father of four sons. "My life goes on."
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