Archbishop Aquila issues update on Independent Reparations Program

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

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: For Love of Country: A Catholic Patriotism

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Our country has been through a lot this last year, as we all know. As many people have reacted against the founding and history of the United States, I have found myself drawn towards greater patriotism. By this, I simply mean a deeper appreciation of what I’ve been given by my country and also a growing realization of the duty I have to work for the common good, here and now. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of this duty under the fourth commandment that enjoins honor not only to parents but also to anyone in authority.   

It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community (2239). 

Catholics, and all people of good will, are called to a love and service of country in order to work for the common good.  

Eric Metaxas argues that the future of our country depends precisely upon the active role of Christians in his book, If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty (Penguin, 2017). He describes something called the Golden Triangle, an idea he borrowed from Os Guinness, but which ultimately comes from the Founding Fathers. “The Golden Triangle of Freedom is, when reduced to its most basic form, that freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; and faith requires freedom. The three go round and round, supporting one another ad infinitum. If any one of the three legs of the triangle is removed, the whole structure ceases to exist” (54). John Adams, for example, related very clearly, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (quoted on 61). Metaxas comments, looking to specific examples around the world, “if you take God and faith and morality out of the equation, everything inevitably falls apart. It cannot be otherwise” (48). It cannot be otherwise. That may sound extreme, but we have many examples from Communist and Fascist countries and now even from movements within our country that aggressive secularism parallels a collapse of real freedom.  

The Constitution established an ordered liberty that requires responsibility and a determined effort of preservation. Hence the title of the book, taken from Benjamin Franklin, a republic “if you can keep it.” We are called to actively preserve our country: entering into a deeper understanding of the “idea” of America that undergirds the Republic as well as showing a loving determination to overcome challenges and threats to its continuance. This is not to whitewash the past, as we all know the injustices of our history. Metaxas argues that we can be grateful for the good and unique blessings of our heritage while also working to overcome failures. “To truly love America, one must somehow see both sides simultaneously” (226). Furthermore, by loving our country we are willing her good, drawing our own selves into the work for her good and helping her to be true to herself. “So that in loving America we are embodying her original intentions — we are indeed being America at her best — and in doing so we are calling her to her best, to be focused on doing all she can to fulfill the great promise which God has called her in bringing her into existence and shepherding her through trials and tribulations all these and centuries — and now” (235).  

As Catholics, we have a lot to offer our country by drawing from our rich intellectual and spiritual heritage. Michael Krom, a philosopher at St. Vincent College, provides us with a great resource in his new book, Justice and Charity: An Introduction to Aquinas’s Moral, Economic, and Political Thought (Baker, 2020). In an age of confusion, Catholics can bring greater clarity in our national discourse on the nature of human life, virtue, and politics. “We live in a time of ideological conflicts, in which the citizens of the nations of the modern world seem incapable of agreeing upon even the most basic of moral, economic, or political principles. Civil discourse has been replaced with violent protest, and reasoned dialogue with character assassination” (2). As Catholics, we should be able to look above all of this, literally: “While the Church does not force us to reject political citizenship, she demands that we direct it to the heavenly, and we can do that by heeding her call to engage the world rather than conform to it. I wrote this book out of the conviction that those who want to heed the Church’s call to engage our culture need to look to the past” (ibid.).  

Dr. Krom shows us that St. Thomas Aquinas has much to teach us about living the good life, in pursuit of a genuine freedom and happiness, and that this should inform a Catholic approach to economics and politics. It is hard to work for virtue if you don’t know what virtue really is, and difficult to act justly toward others if you don’t understand the nature of duty. Aquinas can help us to judge the direction of our country, as “a government cannot be called ‘good’ unless it promotes just moral and economic relationships between its citizens” (121). This is precisely the purpose of government — to promote right order and peace. We can’t just dispense with politics because, “the fact that humans find their fulfillment in political community means that situating their own good with the good of the community as a whole is central to happiness” (125). We are not isolated individuals and can’t attain a good and complete life on our own.  

Our ultimate good, however, is God, not the political life. Everything — all of our choices, including economic and political ones — must be directed to our ultimate goal. There are not “two ends to human existence, the earthly and the heavenly … [T]here is only one end, the beatific vision” (162). In this way the Church informs our citizenship. Krom explains “how inadequate this human law is as a teacher in the virtues, for it is limited in scope to the prevention of those vices from which even the wicked can refrain, and thus leaves those who seek after perfect virtue to their own devices … [H]uman law is in need of a higher law to truly bring about a just community” (155). Unfortunately, we’re seeing that our society is no longer even trying to prevent serious vice. Catholics and all believers have an important role to play, because “the lack of religion in the citizenry leads it down the path of totalitarianism. It Is absolutely critical that a people maintain a strong commitment to a transcendent measure of the common good in order to protect the true flourishing of its members” (171). Krom’s important work on justice and charity can teach us how a Catholic can exercise a proper patriotism, a true love of country.