Cases against Church to Grow

By Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News
June 1, 2006

Attorneys for 30 alleged sex abuse victims suing the Archdiocese of Denver said Wednesday that they intend to add four new cases.

Attorneys also said that more parishes beyond three already named may also be sued.

The information was part of a routine hearing in which Judge Joseph Meyer divided the cases among three courtrooms for better pretrial efficiency and set various other deadlines.

Plaintiff Leonard Roskop, a 57- year-old contractor, slipped into the courtroom to watch the process that he hopes will bring him justice. The late Leonard Abercrombie, who in 1957 was his parish priest at Holy Family Church in Roggin, sexually abused him on ski trips and holiday outings, he said.

"I don't trust either side, so I wanted to see what's going on," Roskop said. "For me it isn't so much the guilt or shame but the anger."

All the cases, including the new cases, involve allegations against Abercrombie or Harold Robert White, now defrocked, which happened between 27 and 50 years ago.

Plaintiffs' attorneys also used the occasion to criticize the mediation offer made last week by Archbishop Charles Chaput and asked the judge to provide court-ordered mediation instead. Meyer declined to discuss the issue, noting such mediation is offered prior to trial anyway.

Plaintiffs have until July 3 to file the new cases. The Archdiocese of Denver was given an Aug. 1 deadline to respond to the allegations or file motions to dismiss.

The parishes already being sued are linked to White. They are St. Catherine of Siena in Denver, St. Anthony's in Sterling and St. Mary's Cathedral in Colorado Springs, which used to be part of the Archdiocese of Denver.

In addition, "There are potentially other parishes involved in alleged wrongdoing here," Jeffrey Herman, of Miami, told the judge. Herman represents 19 plaintiffs.

The archdiocese's offer last week to enter into mediation was roundly criticized after the hearing by Herman and the plaintiffs' other lead attorney, Jeffrey Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., who represents 11 clients.

"This is not genuine mediation; this is an alternative to justice devised by the archbishop," Anderson said. He criticized the mediation process to be handled by Judicial Arbiter Group Inc. (JAG) because it calls for the attorneys to appear only as observers, not participants, and it presents no opportunity to confront archdiocesan officials.

However, neither attorney said he would necessarily advise clients to reject the JAG mediation. Victims can reject the settlement findings and go back to court.

"I hope they take advantage of the process," said Charles Goldberg, the archdiocese's attorney. "Litigation is a zero-sum game. Mediation is win-win."


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