|Priest Faced Prior Nudity Allegations
Boys Reportedly Saw Him Shaving Naked at Camp
By Bill Scanlon and Jean Torkelson
Rocky Mountain News
August 14, 2007
Sterling's former police chief confirmed Monday that he looked into reports in 1999 that 11-year- old boys had seen Father Robert Whipkey naked at a summer camp that year.
Whipkey is the Catholic priest who was ticketed in June for allegedly jogging nude near his rectory home in Frederick.
Former police chief Larry Graham said none of the parents of the boys made formal complaints to police at the time of the 1999 incident and he concluded that no crime had been committed.
"I asked if there was some kind of sexual contact," said Graham, now an investigator with the Colorado Department of Corrections. "They said, 'No.' He was shaving with his clothes off and some of the boys saw him."
The Archdiocese of Denver issued a statement Friday acknowledging that when Whipkey was a pastor in Sterling in 1999, "the Archdiocese did respond to concerns of inappropriate personal behavior by Father Whipkey."
It said Whipkey "immediately entered therapy regarding his personal issues," which continued for several years.
Activist smells a rat
On Monday, David Clohessy, a national sex abuse activist, asked why Whipkey underwent therapy if the incident was harmless.
"Why would years of therapy be required?" asked Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
"The archdiocese wants to have its cake and eat it too. On the one hand they act like the (Sterling incident) was no big deal and on the other hand they sent him to therapy for years."
Whipkey, 53, was put on administrative leave Wednesday in connection with the jogging incident.
Frederick police officer Zacheria Hahn reported that on June 22 at 4:30 a.m.he had just gotten off duty and was watering his lawn when he saw a naked man walking west on Fifth Street.
Hahn, still in uniform, shone a flashlight on the man. "Confirmed that he was completely nude," Hahn wrote in his report.
Hahn notified a fellow officer as the man walked around the side of a residence. When the second police officer appeared, the man came out his front door, this time wearing shorts, Hahn said.
The man, identified as Whipkey, told police he was working out on a nearby track and that because he is heavy and sweats profusely, he feels more comfortable in the buff. He told the officer that he knew what he did was wrong, and that it was the first time he'd been walking or jogging in public without clothes.
Whipkey was charged with indecent exposure and is due in Weld County Court on Sept. 14.
A reporter who went to St. Theresa's Catholic Church on Monday to talk to Whipkey was asked to leave by church officials.
In its Friday statement, the archdiocese said it had received no complaints about Whipkey in the past eight years.
It also said that when the Sterling summer camp accusations surfaced in 1999, the church alerted authorities and had Whipkey evaluated by health care professionals, who concluded he was no danger to others.
On Monday, Graham, the former police chief, said the boys apparently came home from the summer camp "and started talking to their parents about seeing the priest without clothes."
"I heard the rumors second- or third-hand," Graham said. "I asked people and assured myself that no crime had been committed. If I had heard something that could have led to criminal charges, I would have pursued it."
Graham said there are no official reports on the matter because "I never investigated it."
Response time questioned
Clohessy said the archdiocese's statement is an affront to its longstanding pledge to be "transparent" about the way it handles misconduct issues.
"The way church officials continue to split and parse words is bizarre, almost laughable," Clohessy said.
Clohessy also questioned the time it took the archdiocese to react after the jogging incident, pointing out that Whipkey wasn't put on leave until last week.
"It shows the archdiocese's view of 'zero tolerance' and the rest of the world's are very different," Clohessy said from his home in St. Louis.
According to the archdiocese's 1991 sex abuse policy, "sexual misconduct" is not just defined as unlawful conduct but also conduct that is "contrary to the moral instructions, doctrines and canon law of the Catholic Church."
Asked whether that definition encompasses the situation of a priest appearing naked in public, communications director Jean- ette DeMelo said, "We followed the code of conduct then as we do now." She said the archdiocese wouldn't elaborate.
From the Archdiocese of Denver
Statement regarding the charge against Father Robert Whipkey
We are informed that Father Robert Whipkey and his attorney are working closely with the Frederick, Colorado, law enforcement authorities to resolve an ordinance violation charge for alleged indecent exposure. We continue to understand . . . that this incident did not involve any contact with any other individual. Father Whipkey is on administrative leave from his three parish assignments for an undetermined period of time. This leave was granted and made effective Aug. 8.
Until this matter arose, the Archdiocese had received no complaints of any kind about Father Whipkey's personal conduct for the past eight years. Over eight years ago, while Father Whipkey was pastor of St. Anthony's Parish in Sterling, the Archdiocese did respond to concerns of inappropriate personal behavior by Father Whipkey.
The Archdiocese promptly brought the issue to the attention of appropriate local authorities. No charges of any kind were made by authorities. In addition, the Archdiocese of Denver convened its Conduct Response Team, which traveled to Sterling to investigate the matter and to visit with those who had raised concerns about Father Whipkey.
Father Whipkey's conduct eight years ago did not involve any physical or sexual contact with another individual.
Father Whipkey immediately entered therapy regarding his personal issues and his therapy lasted several years. Independent medical health professionals evaluated Father Whipkey (and) did not conclude he was a danger to others or should be removed from ministry.
Contact: scanlon@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-442-8729
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