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: Preparing your Home and Heart for the Advent Season

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The Advent season is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the Lord’s birth on Christmas.  It extends over the four Sundays before Christmas.  Try some of these Ideas to celebrate Advent in your home by decorating, cooking, singing, and reading your way to Christmas. Some of the best ideas are the simplest.

Special thanks to Patty Lunder for putting this together!

Advent Crafts

Handprint Advent Wreath for Children 
Bring the meaning of Advent into your home by having your kids make this fun and easy Advent wreath.

Materials
Pink and purple construction paper
– Yellow tissue or construction paper (to make a flame)
– One piece of red construction paper cut into 15 small circles
– Scissors
– Glue
– Two colors of green construction paper
– One paper plate
– 2 empty paper towel tubes

1. Take the two shades of green construction paper and cut out several of your child’s (Children’s) handprints. Glue the handprints to the rim of a paper plate with the center cut out.

2. Roll one of the paper towels tubes in purple construction paper and glue in place.

3. Take the second paper towel and roll half in pink construction paper and half in purple construction and glue in place.

4. Cut the covered paper towel tubes in half.

5. Cut 15 small circles from the red construction paper. Take three circles and glue two next to each other and a third below to make berries. Do this next to each candle until all circles are used.

6. Cut 4 rain drop shapes (to make a flame) from the yellow construction paper. Each week glue the yellow construction paper to the candle to make a flame. On the first week light the purple candle, the second week light the second purple candle, the third week light the pink candle and on the fourth week light the final purple candle.

A Meal to Share during the Advent Season

Slow-Cooker Barley & Bean Soup 

Make Sunday dinner during Advent into a special family gathering with a simple, easy dinner. Growing up in a large family, we knew everyone would be together for a family dinner after Mass on Sunday. Let the smells and aromas of a slow stress-free dinner fill your house and heart during the Advent Season. Choose a member of the family to lead grace and enjoy an evening together. This is the perfect setting to light the candles on your Advent wreath and invite all to join in a special prayer for that week.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
– 1/2 cup pearl barley (Instant works great, I cook separate and add at end when soup is done)
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
– 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
– 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– Salt to taste
– 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend (basil, oregano)
– Freshly ground black pepper
– One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
– 3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
– 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, extra for garnish

1. Put 6 cups water, the beans, barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 tablespoons salt, herb blend, some pepper in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the pot to break them down and add their juices. Cover and cook on high until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours. 

2. Add the spinach and cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with a baguette.