Gourley to Take Some Time Seeking Return As Priest

By Sheba R. Wheeler
Denver Post
February 15, 2000

The Rev. Marshall Gourley's religious order says Gourley needs time to think before deciding whether to seek reinstatement as a priest and cannot immediately return to Our Lady of Guadalupe church, but parishioners there are skeptical.

Some church members recently petitioned for Gourley's return after a former parishioner failed to pursue a sexual molestation lawsuit against Gourley to the U.S. Supreme Court. A lower court, and an appeals court agreed, that parishioner John Dean Ayon, now 35, waited too long after the alleged molestation to file the suit.

Gourley's supporters in the parish say the priest told them he wanted to return as soon as the legal battle was resolved.

But in a statement read at Sunday masses, the Rev. Pat Valdez, provincial of Gourley's Theatine Order, said Gourley had asked for 'the necessary and appropriate time for reflection and discernment before petitioning the Archdiocese of Denver for reinstatement.'

Gourley released a statement through his lawyer, Gary Blum, on Monday.

'As a religious (member) I have taken a vow of obedience to my superiors,' Gourley said. 'It seems appropriate that there be a period of discernment to determine what I want to do. I feel very grateful to the parishioners and friends in the Guadalupe community whose prayers, kindness and encouragement has sustained me through past difficult times. At the appropriate time, I will have more to share with the community.'

Gourley, well-known for his outspoken political and social activism, was stripped of his priestly duties when Ayon sued in 1997, accusing the priest of sexually molesting him between 1980 and 1984.

Linda Higginbotham, a member of the group asking for Gourley's return to Guadalupe, said a group member spoke with Gourley on Sunday night about the letter and his meeting with the Theatine order.

'We don't know exactly what happened in the meeting, but we do know that Marshall did not ask for the time,' Higginbotham said. 'I don't want to say anything that is going to harm Marshall or cause division in the church, but I think the people of the church need to know that he didn't ask for the time. He wants to come back to the church, but he's trying to do what's right for the Theatine order.'

Valdez said if Gourley told his parishioners he wanted to return that was reasonable, but Gourley had asked for extra time.


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