Editor’s note: This story contains explicit descriptions of sexual assault.By Jesse Paul and Jennifer Brown
The Colorado Sun
Investigators digging into child sex abuse in Colorado’s three Catholic dioceses have identified an additional 46 victims dating back to 1950 and nine more abusive priests, including an iconic Denver advocate for the homeless and poor.
The new revelations were released Tuesday by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office in a 93-page supplemental report that marks the end of a 22-month investigation into the church covering the past seven decades.
The latest report includes allegations that a chaplain sexually abused children living in a Pueblo orphanage in the 1950s, and that a Denver priest whipped a child and fondled him during an estimated 1,000 instances of abuse over five years in the 1970s.
It also names Charles Woodrich, better known as Father Woody, a revered priest who founded a homeless shelter and was called Denver’s “patron saint of the poor.” Father Woody established Haven of Hope, where people who are homeless can go for hot meals and showers, and founded the Samaritan House, a homeless shelter in downtown Denver. He died in 1991.
An independent team led by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer discovered a total of 52 priests who were credibly accused of abuse — some of whom are still alive — and 212 victims. It’s a staggering toll that authorities have conceded may still not account for the true depth of the scandal. The review and a subsequent claims process that paid 77 victims more than $7.3 million resulted from an agreement between the state’s three Catholic dioceses and the attorney general’s office.
The review was not a criminal investigation and did not involve a grand jury, which is what led to a 2018 report in Pennsylvania that listed 301 abusive priests and prompted the discussions that led to Colorado’s review. The vast majority of the abuse cases in Colorado would likely not be criminally prosecutable anyway because the state used to have a statute of limitations for child sex assault — it was eliminated in 2006 — that still applies to past cases.
“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,” Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a written statement. “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.”
Of the newly identified abusive priests, five served in the Denver Archdiocese and four served in the Pueblo Diocese. There were no additional reports of sexual abuse by priests serving in Colorado Springs, Colorado’s third diocese.