Two year long investigation into child sex abuse of Catholic priests concludes in Colorado

A 22-month investigation, spearheaded by Special Master, U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer investigating allegations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church in Colorado has concluded and a supplemental report was issued on Tuesday by the Colorado Attorney General's Office.


A preliminary report was issued on October 22, 2019 which identified at least 166 children that had been sexually abused by 43 Catholic priests dating back to 1950.


The supplemental report dated December 1, 2020 identified an additional 46 individuals that had been sexually abused by 9 additional Catholic priests.  The abuses investigated in this report stemmed from reports that were received by the Attorney General's Office and the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP) after October 2019.


Each of the individuals identified within the reports were considered to have "substantiated claims" of abuse.


“Specifically, these incidents provide further evidence that historically the dioceses enabled clergy child sexual abuse by transferring abusive priests to new parishes; taking no action to restrict their ministry or access to children; concealing the priests’ behavior with secrecy, euphemism and lack of documentation; silencing victims; and not reporting the abuse to law enforcement,” Troyer wrote in his supplemental report.


According to the statement issued by the Colorado Attorney General's Office, 16 of the 46 new victims were abused after the diocese had been notified of credible sexual abuse allegations against a priest.  The Denver Post states that between the two reports, more than half of the 212 victims identified were abused after church leaders had been notified of allegations against priests.


All but one of the new allegations of abuse had been previously reported to law enforcement.


“From the time we announced this program in February 2019, our goals were to support and comfort survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and to bring meaningful change to how the Colorado dioceses protect children from sexual abuse. It takes incredible fortitude for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories, and they are the heroes of this effort,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser. “I recognize there isn’t one program or dollar amount that can make up for the trauma that many have been through in their lives, but my sincerest hope is that this unique Colorado program has allowed survivors of sexual abuse by a priest to take one more step on the path to healing and recovery.”


Despite the scope of the investigation, the AG's office makes it clear in their statement that this should by no means be considered a full and complete accounting of sexual abuses within the Colorado Catholic church.


"The supplemental report does not include victims who reported directly to a diocese but not to the IRRP or the Attorney General’s Office, nor allegations of abuse by religious-order priests, church volunteers, or employees other than ordained priests. Some victims who reported their abuse to the IRRP chose not to repeat their stories for inclusion in the supplemental report."


Weiser commended the Catholic church for accepting and implementing all of the recommendations made by Troyer in his first report in an effort to prevent child abuse and better protect children.  The statement called the changes "meaningful, specific, and measurable."


“I am pleased that all of the dioceses in Colorado implemented every recommendation in the first report, and the reforms they have made appear to be meaningful and sound. But as the report points out, these improvements are untested at this point in time, and it will be up to the church to ensure it is creating an environment that is as safe as possible for children now and in the future,” said Weiser.


Some of the suggested changes included implementing an independent and professional investigation system and providing victim-assistance coordinators.  They were additionally admonished to improve their administration in regards to records-management with an emphasis on facilitating reporting child abuse, reporting to law enforcement, and tracking investigations.


The Denver Post quoted Weiser as saying during a press conference Tuesday announcing the supplemental report, "The work we have to do is to make sure this doesn't happen again."


Bishops from three diocese also attended and issued a joint statement, saying, “We also hope that this process has demonstrated our commitment to continuing to enhance and strengthen our child-protection policies so that the sins of the past do not repeat themselves.  We are grateful for the work completed by the Special Master to thoroughly analyze our protocols and make sure they meet the highest of standards for any youth-serving institution.”