Colorado editorial boards weigh in on dioceses’ historic agreement with Attorney General

Mark Haas

“The Catholic Dioceses of Colorado should have reported to authorities any and all accusations of sexual abuse decades ago, but we must praise the development that finally came Tuesday when church officials announced they will open their records for scrutiny.” – Denver Post Editorial Board, Feb. 20, 2019.

In the days following the announcement of a voluntary agreement between Colorado’s three dioceses and the Colorado Attorney General for an independent review of past allegations of sexual abuse of minors and the creation of an independent survivors’ reparation program, newspaper editorial boards from around the state offered their opinions on the actions taken by all the parties involved.

The general themes seemed to be that while nothing can fully make right the sins of the past, the process the Catholic Church in Colorado has entered into is a positive step in the right direction, and one that should be modeled by other institutions in the state.

“Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila deserves credit for opening the records voluntarily, and we hope he is able to stand firm in his resolve to expose the worst of what remains hidden,” the Denver Post Editorial Board wrote. “The best that can come from all of this is closure, healing and restitution for Colorado survivors of sexual abuse.”

In Colorado Springs, the Gazette Editorial Board also noted the unfortunate history in the Church, but added that “fortunately, today’s American Catholic institutions are safe harbors when compared with most other environments that combine adults with kids.”

Praising the effect that the 2002 Dallas Charter has had within the Church, the Gazette Editorial Board wrote that it hoped the dioceses’ actions could lead to state-wide changes.

“Anyone who watches local news knows anecdotally about the alarming rate of sex abuse involving children in public schools,” the Gazette Board wrote. “Let us hope Colorado’s attorney general, bishops, investigators and sex abuse survivors can make the investigation a constructive model for others to follow. All children matter, Catholic and otherwise. Each warrants protection from sexual abuse — just as survivors deserve justice.”

From Pueblo, the Chieftain Editorial Board called the announcement a “remarkable partnership,” and said that it “represents a great opportunity to provide some comfort and relief for victims and a measure of redemption for the church.”

In Grand Junction, the Daily Sentinel Editorial Board questioned whether the church should be “lauded” for addressing a “crisis of its own making,” but concluded “if the church intends to re-establish its integrity worldwide, what it’s doing in Colorado should serve as an example of the right way to try to make amends.”

“At this stage of the sex abuse crisis, it’s about the best step the church can take,” the Daily Sentinel Board wrote. “It’s shining a light on its own negligence — at least in Colorado. That’s how repentance works.”

And back to Denver, where the Post board wrote that Archbishop Aquila’s “words and heart seem to be in the right place,” and concluded: “If the Catholic Church wants to move beyond this dark period in its history, the path leads through a transparent reckoning with all that has transpired and a willingness to face repercussions, whether they be legal, financial or simply public shame. This step forward is a recognition of that fact.”

COMING UP: Adopt-a-Student program changes family’s life

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When Colin and Maria Coleman moved to the United States, they were certain of one thing.

“We really wanted our child to attend a Catholic school,” said Maria, “but found the cost of tuition beyond our financial means.”

When the family heard about the Seeds of Hope Adopt-a-Student program through St. Catherine of Siena Parish, they decided to apply for their son Justin.

“As practicing Catholics, we see it as vital to pass on a Christ-centered education to our children,” said Colin.

The Colemans put their Catholic faith at the forefront of their lives. Maria is a teacher and Colin is a deacon, both at St. Catherine of Siena. Justin is a sixth grader at the parish school.

“The scholarship is of great importance because, as a missionary family, we work on a very tight budget,” said Colin.

Justin was accepted into the Adopt-a-Student program, which pairs a scholarship donor with a student who, with the financial help, is able to attend Catholic school.

“I feel happy to know someone cares about me and my education,” said Justin.

Through the program, Justin has been able to meet his sponsor and he keeps in touch by sending cards during Christmas and Easter.

The generosity of a donor isn’t lost on students like Justin, who are eager to grow in faith and virtue at the school they love.

“Going to St. Catherine’s has helped my faith life because I get to attend Mass twice a week, sometimes the [priests] have come into class to teach us about God, [and] my teachers also share their faith with me,” said Justin.

Justin is grateful for the faith-filled experiences he’s had, including reenacting the Stations of the Cross and reading the Gospel at school Masses.

“All of these are things I would only have experienced at a Catholic school,” he said.

Colin and Maria are grateful for how welcomed they’ve felt at St. Catherine since moving to the United States.

“It has been and continues to be such a privilege to be so connected to St. Catherine’s,” said Maria. “Our extended family is all in New Zealand, so St. Catherine’s is really a big part of our USA family, as well as the Community of the Beatitudes that we are members of.”

Justin’s scholarship is another key reason for their gratitude.

“We are tremendously grateful to our donor who provides Justin’s scholarship,” said Maria. “We keep Justin’s donor in our prayers and give thanks to God for his wonderful providence.”

Colin agreed.

“I think it is a great witness that someone has taken a personal interest to help in a child’s education,” he said.