The Archdiocese of Denver (“the Archdiocese”), which was established in 1887, encompasses 24 counties in northern Colorado. It consists of 118 parishes, 29 missions, and 39 elementary and secondary schools and serves a population of 367,997 registered Catholics with 143 deacons and 153 diocesan priests. The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, who was installed as archbishop in 1997, leads the Archdiocese. A compliance audit of the Archdiocese was conducted during the period of July 21-25, 2003.
The information presented below represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding necessary corrective actions taken by the Archdiocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Archdiocese has had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors (Sexual Misconduct Policy of the Archdiocese of Denver and Related Entities) since 1991; the policy was revised in September 2002 and is currently undergoing a third revision. This policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. A Commendation was written to recognize this effort. The archbishop has appointed Nancy A. Walla as his liaison to the USCCB Office of Child and Youth Protection and as special advisor for archdiocesan compliance with the Charter. As part of her duties, Ms. Walla also acts as the archdiocesan outreach and support coordinator. She is assisted in this role by the vicar for clergy, the director of human resources, and the director of the Catholic school system. A lay review board, called the “conduct response team,” has been functioning since 1991 and consists of two priests, one of whom is a mental health professional, and four respected members of the community, including two other mental health professionals and a law enforcement professional. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed form. The Archdiocese has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Archdiocese has had contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations, and all allegations have been and are being reported to civil authorities. A local district attorney has reviewed the diocesan policy for handling allegations and approved of the procedures. The Archdiocese also has a procedure for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or an employee of the Archdiocese to civil authorities. The Archdiocese has established a number of policies and procedures that pertain to the conduct for priests, deacons, and other adults who have contact with children. A Recommendation was written for immediate completion of the revisions to the code of conduct. The Archdiocese has a communications policy reflecting the archbishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. A Commendation was written commending the Archdiocese for its impressive and informative efforts in keeping the community updated on issues of sexual abuse.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Archdiocese has participated in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
To Protect the Faithful in the Future
The Archdiocese has developed most of the components of a safe environment program for presentation to priests, deacons, and adults having regular contact with children. The training for parents is under development, and the other components are found throughout the various manuals of the Archdiocese. A Recommendation was issued for completing the missing component and aggregating the training components into one program. As mentioned above, the Archdiocese has a number of related policies/procedures regarding conduct for priests and deacons, as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people; a Recommendation was issued for revisions to be made. The Archdiocese has completed background investigations on all members of the clergy, school, and church employees. A Commendation was issued for the archdiocesan procedures in handling background checks. The Archdiocese has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other diocese for ministerial assignment or residence since June 2002. The archbishop and the major superiors of the orders having a presence in the Archdiocese have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a clerical member of a religious institute. The Archdiocese has not yet had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Archdiocese has long-established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and has established an ongoing formation program for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Archdiocese of Denver was issued two Recommendations and three Commendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Archdiocese complete all revisions to the code of conduct and distribute it to all appropriate archdiocesan personnel.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Archdiocese complete its evaluation of safe environment training programs for parents, aggregate all of the components of its training program into a single comprehensive program, and distribute this document.
COMMENDATION 1—For the Archdiocese’s establishment of a comprehensive sexual abuse prevention policy in 1991, its 2002 revision to bring it into compliance with the Charter, and the second revision in process, and for the establishment of the position of special advisor for archdiocesan compliance with
COMMENDATION 2—For the Archdiocese’s proactive handling of background checks and evaluations.
COMMENDATION 3—For the Archdiocese’s impressive methodology relating to the communication of sexual abuse issues, as a direct result of the work of its director of communications, Greg Kail.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Archdiocese of Denver is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
The compliance audit measured activity that has occurred since the adoption of the Charter in June 2002 with the exception of certain mandated actions found in Articles 5 and 14. Actions taken by the diocese/eparchy prior to June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons are not included in this summary report.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-5413 | FAX: (202) 541-5410