Settlement helping victim of Colorado Catholic priest abuse to start a new life

KMGH - The Denver Channel - ABC 7 [Denver CO]

April 16, 2021

By Tony Kovaleski

To date, Colorado’s Catholic church has paid out more than $7 million to victims of priest abuse

A state-led investigation into child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Colorado in 2019 discovered 52 priests were responsible for sexually assaulting 212 children between the 1950s and 1999.

Now, one of the victims is telling a story of healing after he reached a settlement with the church.

“I never thought I would come out of the darkness,” said Troy Gallegos, a Denver man who kept his story a secret for more than four decades. “I’m still trying to climb out of there.”

Gallegos was a lead altar boy at Saint Francis De Sales Catholic Church in Denver. He said he kept the secret out of fear and out of respect for his mother’s visible position with the Denver Archdiocese.

“I used to hate to go to school because it was right next to the church,” Gallegos said. “I was always nervous because the monsignor was always wanting me and wanting me in the back. I always got scorned and abused sexually in sexual ways as well.”

Gallegos is part of a list of nearly 100 victims who came forward during the state’s inquiry into the church. He accused Monsignor Gregory Smith of molesting him as a child when he served as an altar boy at Saint Francis De Sales. Gallegos talked about his decision to keep his story a secret for more than 40 years.

“That was hard for me to speak about, you know? But I am in a place right now where I know it wasn’t my fault.” Gallegos said. “I’ve been carrying it for many years, that it wasn’t my fault for what happened to me.”

Gallegos’ boyhood trauma took its toll as an adult. He said the trail of trauma included a life of drugs, lost jobs and broken marriages.

Since he came forward in 2019, he has learned his journey was not unique. During the past two years, Denver7 Investigates has talked with several victims who reached out to share their stories in the spirit of creating accountability and bringing change.

statewide review by Colorado’s attorney general concluded the sexual assaults took place between over roughly 40 years. Records uncovered by state investigators and Denver7 Investigates confirmed the Catholic Church in Colorado attempted to cover up many of the assaults for decades.

One victim said during a 2019 news conference, “What they told me is if Jesus can suffer and die on the cross, you can handle this.”

In the months since the state’s investigation wrapped up, Colorado’s Catholic Church has attempted to compensate victims for the actions of its priests. Gallegos was one of the victims who settled with the church.

“To be honest with you it’s about bringing it out in the open, it’s not about the money,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos is one of 77 victims who have already settled with the church. According to a Catholic Church spokesperson, the church has already paid victims $7,312,500 in compensation for the actions of its priests. Gallegos told Denver7 Investigates that his settlement was a six-figure amount.

“Yes, they finally admitted it,” Gallegos added when asked if it was confirmation the church made mistakes.

“You know, there is no money in the world that can pay for what happened to me or anybody else. But, you know, it gave me a fresh start.”

A total of 98 people filed claims with Colorado’s Catholic Church. Eighty-one were determined eligible for compensation. To date, the church says it has settled 77 of the 81 claims