Enough Is Enough: Catholic Church Needs to Heal Itself

By Jim Spencer
Denver Post [Denver CO]
August 1, 2005

Scandalous. That's what a former superior of the Rev. Harold Robert White called Eric Gorski's reports.

Last week, Gorski, The Denver Post's religion writer, revealed alleged sexual assaults by White on a series of young parishioners roughly 40 years ago.

Gorski also detailed what appear to be failures of Denver's Roman Catholic Archdiocese to properly react when told of White's supposed abuse.

Several alleged victims say they complained to church authorities, but church officials let White continue to minister.

Scandalous. No question about it. It makes members of the church hierarchy accomplices after the fact to felonies.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the scandal the Rev. James E. Kane saw when he talked to Gorski last week.

"I am a good friend of Father White's," Kane told Gorski. "And I personally like Father White, and I personally think this publicity is scandalous because I feel if a person has an illness, whatever it should be, what we should do for these people is pray for them and not criticize them."

We might also want to consider counseling them and, if that doesn't work, prosecuting them.

But we can't be covering up or making excuses for them.

Kane wasn't home Friday when I called. His kill-the-messenger approach to revelations of White's decades-old alleged crimes explains why there is a priest sexual assault scandal that has cost the Catholic Church an estimated billion bucks in lawsuit settlements.

Evidence mounts that several of White's young alleged victims reported the priest, saying they'd been fondled. Troubling questions arise about why White continued as a parish minister.

The pattern is as ugly as it is familiar. White's clerical history in Colorado looks depressingly like priests in other parts of the country who preyed sexually on parishioners while church officials shuffled them around to avoid discovery and embarrassment.

White, his alleged victims say, liked to grope young teenage boys as White let them drive his cars.

White, who left active ministry in 1993, has said he doesn't remember Brandon Trask, the first of his alleged victims to go public with accusations. White has since been unavailable for comment.

What is available is a 33-year career at 11 parishes throughout Colorado.

What is emerging is a list of alleged victims in several of those parishes.

Kane confirmed to Gorski a sex-abuse complaint against White in the 1960s that Kane sent to the archbishop. That happened in a parish in Sterling.

Trask says White molested him at a parish in Minturn.

Gary Wolf says White abused him at a parish in Denver.

Other alleged victims were from parishes in Colorado Springs and Loveland.

Lo these many years later, the Denver Archdiocese has taken a more aggressive approach to shameful secrets. After Gorski's story, Archbishop Charles Chaput encouraged those who knew of any kind of child sexual abuse to contact church officials.

It was a commendable, compassionate response. But it was still measured.

Trask said he heard "not one word about the earlier complaints" against White when he met recently with the archdiocese "Conduct Response Team."

"They're stuck in their own lies from way back when this started," Trask said.

The archdiocese acknowledged that it has offered to pay for counseling for Trask. At the same time, church officials stressed that this was not an admission that anyone did anything wrong.

Of course not. And the counseling the church offers to all those guys now stepping up won't be a guilty plea either.

It will merely acknowledge what Jesus said about being blinded by the beam in your eye.

Spiritual leaders content to judge others while refusing to judge themselves must eventually balance their ministry with legal liability.

Want to see something truly scandalous? Behold.