Gourley Keeps Focus on God's Love
Chaput relieves priest of duties so he can pursue defense from sexual abuse charges

By Michael O'Keeffe
Rocky Mountain News
October 6, 1997

The Rev. Marshall Gourley told parishioners Sunday he finds God's love even in his darkest hour, a month after he was accused of sexual abuse and a day after he was relieved of his duties as a parish priest.

''I am absolutely convinced that this is a time of grace for all of us,'' Gourley told parishioners at Our Lady of Guadalupe after Mass Sunday. ''Either we believe in divine providence, or we don't.''

Gourley was relieved of his duties this weekend by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who said the popular priest couldn't defend himself against a $ 20 million lawsuit while tending to the needs of his parish.

Gourley's graciousness touched his parishioners.

''I think Father Marshall is setting an example for us by applying the word of God to our daily lives,'' Cherry Marquez said. ''What he's saying is just because we face trials, we can't give up our faith.''

Gourley's voice and demeanor were strong and confident as he addressed his parishioners. Many cried during the announcement.

''We have to be strong, but we're hurting on the inside,'' Gloria Padilla de Garcia said. ''We hope justice will prevail and he returns to us.''

Gourley and the archdiocese were named last month in a lawsuit filed by former parishioner John Ayon. He alleges the priest sexually molested him when he was a teen-ager in Denver in the early 1980s.

The lawsuit also said the archdiocese failed to supervise Gourley and concealed his pattern of sexual abuse of minors.

Ayon's attorney, Windle Turley, said others claiming sexual abuse by Gourley have come forward and their charges will be rolled into Ayon's lawsuit.

''The legal work ahead, no matter what the outcome, will be a demanding and time-consuming effort,'' Chaput said in a letter sent to Gourley this weekend. Gourley read the letter after each Mass at our Lady of Guadalupe Sunday.

''Both to ensure the effective pastoral care of the parish and to enable Father Gourley to concentrate on his defense, I have relieved him of his duties.''

Gourley said he agreed with the decision.

''Please, please don't be upset with the archbishop,'' Gourley said. ''The process that (he) has undertaken is in accord with the norms established ... throughout the United States. The process is correct. And the process is necessary.''


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