Priest's Accuser Issues Statement

By Virginia Culver
Denver Post
September 11, 1997

The man accusing Denver Catholic priest Marshall Gourley of sexual assault said Wednesday he was "morally mandated" to come forward with his allegations.

John Ayon, a former Littleton resident, filed a $20 million lawsuit against Gourley this week, alleging that the well-known pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church sexually abused Ayon when he was a teenager.

In a statement issued to the news media from his home in San Diego, Ayon, now 33, said he has been treated for "severe and disabling depression, manifesting itself in alcohol abuse and attempted suicide" due to the molestation, which he has alleged happened in the early 1980s.

Ayon said he telephoned the Denver Archdiocese several times in the past few months to report the allegations against Gourley. His Denver lawyer, Greg Stutz, acknowledged Wednesday that Ayon identified himself only as "Michael" to an archdiocesan official, Monsignor Walker Nickless.

"John was reluctant to give his own name because of the nature of the allegations," Stutz said.

Stutz added, however, that the archdiocese's response was "inadequate and inappropriate." Archdiocesan officials said earlier this week they had received allegations against Gourley from a man calling himself "Michael."

They said he was asked to present the allegations in writing and to fully identify himself, but he never did.

Parishioners have rallied around the popular Gourley, 48, who has called the charges "distressing" and "not truthful."

In his statement, Ayon said he knows Our Lady of Guadalupe parishioners "feel smitten by learning the ugly and unfortunate reality of Father Marshall Gourley's having abused me."

Ayon added: "Coming forward is now done with great distress and after much reluctance. However, despite this reluctance, my sense of right and wrong makes bringing this matter forward unavoidable and morally mandated."

Meanwhile, the Rev. Pat Valdez, regional provincial of Gourley's religious order, the Theatine Fathers, said Gourley has never been accused of such allegations previously.

Valdez, who is Gourley's immediate superior, said the Mexico-based order will investigate the Ayon allegations and report its findings to the Denver Archdiocese, which is also named in the suit.


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