Archbishop Aquila issues update on Independent Reparations Program

October 16, 2020 

Dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Denver, 

Today, the Oversight Committee of the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (Program) released an interim summary of the program’s work, including statistical information and the Committee members’ thoughts on the effectiveness of the process. 

When the three dioceses in Colorado announced this program in 2019, our sincere hope was that any survivor who had not previously come forward would do so, and any survivor who hadn’t previously received compensation from the Archdiocese would have that opportunity through a simple and non-adversarial process.  

As part of what was reported by the Oversight Committee today, the Program received 66 claims involving allegations of abuse by Archdiocesan priests, of which 56 were deemed eligible by the program administrators. 52 of those survivors have accepted the reparations offered by the administrators and been paid by the Archdiocese. To date, no victim has rejected the program’s offer to them. Four offers remain pending. Of the 56 survivors deemed eligible by the administrators, approximately half came forward for the first time.  

To all of the survivors who came forward and participated in the Program: I have met with all of you who requested a meeting in which I could offer an apology to you in person, and will meet with anyone else should you desire to do so. I know others have chosen a different path for healing and I, of course, respect your wishes. Please know, on behalf of myself and the Church, I am deeply sorry for the pain and hurt that was caused by the abuse you suffered. I remain steadfastly committed to meeting with any survivor who desires to meet with me and doing everything I can so that the problems of the past never repeat themselves. I know that money cannot fully heal the wounds you suffered, but hope that those of you who came forward felt heard, acknowledged, and that the reparations offer a measure of justice and access to resources. 

And, to those survivors who still have not come forward: while the claims period to seek help through the reparations program is now closed, the ability to seek help and support from the Archdiocese remains open. I encourage you to come forward and to report your abuse to law enforcement and then to our Office of Child and Youth Protection. Even if you do not wish to receive assistance from the Archdiocese, we can help you find other resources that will provide the assistance you need. 

Importantly, all allegations made by victims as part of the Program had to be reported to local authorities, and the information was also provided to the Attorney General (Phil Weiser) and the Special Master (Robert Troyer), who with the Church’s support and active participation previously studied and issued a report in 2019 on the sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church in Colorado. We know that some substantiated allegations in the Program were made against priests not previously identified in the prior report. From the outset of our cooperation with the Attorney General, I have pledged transparency, and it was always anticipated that there would need to be a supplement to the Special Master’s report to capture information that came forward as a result of the Program. Consistent with my pledge of transparency, the identity of priests who were accused of wrongdoing in the Program process where those allegations were deemed substantiated, as determined by the Special Master and Attorney General, will be included in an addendum prepared by the Special Master, which is presently anticipated in November.   

None of the survivors who participated in the Program reported abuse in the last 20 years—meaning that the abuse alleged in the Program, like that set out in the Special Master’s original report, involves incidents that occurred decades ago.   

As the Program is winding down, I would like to again thank Senator Hank Brown, the Honorable Jeanne Smith, retired Judge David Crockenberg, victims advocate Nancy Feldman, and community leader Laura Morales for their time and effort in over-seeing this program. I would also like to thank program administrators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros and their team for their work with the survivors, especially during the middle of a pandemic. Like the Committee, we are glad this outreach to survivors has been able to reach so many survivors in such a short period of time, and without the adversity and pressures placed on survivors by our civil justice system.   

I also want to reiterate the promises I have made to everyone in our Archdiocese. This independent program and the independent review conducted by the dioceses in Colorado in cooperation with the Attorney General have put a spotlight on a horrifying chapter in our history, but it has also shown that the steps we have taken over the past 30 years—including our training and empowerment of thousands of faithful parishioners and volunteers across the Archdiocese—have been effective. Most of all, it has taught us to be open and care for victims of abuse as they deem best, and to always be vigilant to make sure the Church is a safe place. 

Today, I am confident that the work and commitment of our priests, deacons, employees and volunteers are making our Churches and schools among the safest places in our state for children. However, this process continues to remind us that we can never be complacent, that evil lurks in all corners of our society, and that we must always work to stamp out those who wish to do harm and violate the trust of our children. This work has undoubtedly reaffirmed our resolve to do everything we can to protect children in our Church and beyond. 

Please join me in praying for all survivors of abuse, and for continued healing for them, their families, and our Church. 

In Christ, 

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila 

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”