Sex Abuse Lawsuit Accuses Former Priest Who Committed Suicide

Associated Press State & Local Wire
November 29, 2005

A sexual abuse lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pueblo was the first to name a former priest who committed suicide following allegations he molested a teenager.

Andrew A. Burke, a pastor at St. Piux X in Pueblo, left the ministry around 1973 due to a "psycho-sexual behavior disorder," according to the lawsuit.

Burke shot himself in the heart Sept. 21, coroner's officials said.

Last year officials of the diocese told police a prisoner alleged that in the 1970s, Burke would make him strip down to his underwear, blindfold him, tickle him, then take a wet towel from a freezer and lay it across his chest.

The man alleged Burke then would masturbate or straddle him while rubbing his genitals against him, sometimes giving him alcohol.

Authorities said Burke left a suicide note, but it did not mention the allegations.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Pueblo County District Court was by the prisoner, his lawyer, Jeffrey Herman confirmed. Herman did not disclose the man's convictions. The lawsuit identified the 45-year-old man as John Doe No. 7.

The lawsuit alleges the diocese knew Burke was a threat to minors yet did not protect John Doe No. 7 from abuse. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

A message left by The Associated Press for Msgr. Rev Mark Plewka, the diocese's chancellor, was not immediately returned Tuesday night.

Herman's firm has filed at least a dozen lawsuits against the diocese and at least 11 more against the Archdiocese of Denver alleging church officials knew of sexual abuse allegations against priests but failed to protect children from them.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has received six recent complaints from men accusing priests of sexually abusing them as children. He said he could not pursue charges because the alleged attacks happened too long ago and outside Denver.

Morrissey said Monday he would keep the complaints on file because the men could be called as witnesses if new allegations surface.

State law allows criminal charges in child sex-abuse cases until the alleged victim turns 28. Morrissey can prosecute only cases in the city and county of Denver.

Lynn Kimbrough, Morrissey's spokeswoman, said the recent reports to Morrissey came from Sterling, Estes Park, Hugo and Englewood.

Kimbrough declined to identify most of the priests accused or say how many were listed. She did identify one as former priest Harold Robert White, who has been listed in at least 10 sexual abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese, although he is not a defendant.

White has an unlisted phone number.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests asked Morrissey to review allegations against Colorado priests in September. He declined SNAP's request to open a grand jury investigation because the statute of limitations had expired on the alleged assaults.

"It would be unethical to do an investigation that ... can never result in a prosecution," Morrissey said.


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