Burke Personnel File Relinquished

By Patrick Malone
The Pueblo Chieftain
September 13, 2009

Matt Cortez may not have gotten what he wanted out of his settlement with the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo, but another accuser of the same former priest has.

The Colorado Supreme Court recently affirmed a decision by Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes compelling the diocese to release its personnel file on Andrew Burke to a John Doe accuser who is suing the diocese.

Monsignor Mark Plewka of the diocese and Miami lawyer Adam Horowitz, who represents the unnamed accuser, confirmed last week that the diocese complied with the court order and provided Burke's file to the plaintiff's lawyers.

The diocese immediately followed its compliance with a request to the court seeking to keep Burke's file sealed from public viewing. More than two years ago, the diocese denied The Pueblo Chieftain's request to inspect the file. Bishop Arthur Tafoya cited personnel rules as the basis for the denial. Perhaps of greater significance in the overall picture of clergy abuse lawsuits were two district court rulings issued last week in a pair of John Doe suits against the diocese alleging abuse of two boys at churches in Walsenburg and Ignacio by Father William Groves about 20 years ago. The suits were filed earlier this year.

Horowitz noted that statutes of limitations tend to be the first action church lawyers invoke in their attempts to thwart sexual-abuse suits, because they tend to be brought years after the incidents allegedly occurred.

Pueblo District Judge Larry Schwartz determined that whether the men's suits were filed on time will be for a jury to determine.

“Our argument was that the (two-year) clock begins ticking on statute of limitations from when the victim knows or should know that the diocese was negligent, not from when the victim knows he was abused,” Horowitz said. “In these cases, where the events happened a long time ago, the personnel records are the best indicator of who knew what and what they knew. The Catholic church are good record keepers, probably because they never knew it would see the light of day.”

Horowitz intends to challenge the diocese's request to keep Burke's file under wraps.



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