Independent Review and Report FAQ

Denver Catholic Staff

This FAQ is intended to be a brief summary of the Independent Review and its published report specific to the Archdiocese of Denver. The full report and a more detailed FAQ are available at archden.org/promise. 

What was the Independent Review?

Former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer was given access to 70 years of diocesan files concerning the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests—including the so-called “secret archive” files—and the opportunity to interview survivors, priests, and other witnesses. His report included an analysis of the diocese’s policies related to preventing and responding to sexual abuse of minors; the dioceses’ compliance with Colorado law requiring the mandatory reporting to law enforcement of abuse allegations; and a list of all diocesan priests that are the subject of one or more substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor since 1950.

Why did the Archdiocese agree to the Independent Review?

There were four goals: (1) To publicly acknowledge this history of sexual abuse, and in doing so provide a moment of justice for any survivor and encourage others to come forward; (2) To assure the Attorney General, public and members of the Archdiocese – clergy and laity – that no diocesan priest known to have sexually abused a minor is in active ministry; (3) To identify any needed improvements to our policies and procedures to ensure they are of the highest standard; (4) To allow the thousands of people who are working to make the Archdiocese a safe environment for children to see the progress of their work.

What did the Independent Review find for the Archdiocese of Denver?

The review identifies 21 diocesan and one extern priest who were responsible for 127 substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. For some context: within the Archdiocese of Denver, the most recent case was in 1998 and no substantiated allegations were found against any diocesan priest in active ministry. Nearly 90-percent of the known abuse happened more than 40 years ago (1950-1979 – see chart below). Over 60-percent of the abuse was committed by two former priests – H. Robert White and Leonard Abercrombie. And roughly 75-percent of the abuse was committed by four former priests – White, Abercrombie, Neil Hewitt and John Holloway – none of whom have been in ministry for the last 26 years.

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What was the scope of the Independent Review?

The review focused on all diocesan and extern priests who have served in the Archdiocese between 1950 and today. While religious order priests often serve in our parishes, they report to a different religious superior who maintains their files and handles allegations of misconduct.
What is the status of the priests named in the report?
Of the 22 priests, 15 of them are dead and none of the other seven are assigned in active ministry. The most recent substantiated allegation in the report was perpetrated by Timothy Evans in 1998. Evans has been laicized and remains in prison. More details in the FULL FAQ online.

Are my children safe in Catholic parishes or schools?

Yes. The policies and procedures that have been implemented and strengthened over the last three decades have shown to be effective. Every priest, deacon, employee and volunteer who works with children must pass a background check and attend safe-environment training to be educated on preventing, spotting and responding to potential abuse. We currently have 14,000 trained mandatory reporters, and every year approximately 22,000 children are taught how to keep themselves safe. We have also strengthened our seminary screening and formation process to better prepare our future priests. Constant ongoing vigilance to protect our children, however, is required.

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Has the Church completely fixed the issue of clergy sexual abuse of minors?

No. While we take the absence of substantiated abuse by any diocesan priest in the last 20 years as a positive sign that we are meaningfully addressing the issue, we recognize that child sexual abuse is a pervasive problem in our society and that we must remain vigilant as a Church. The report is a stark reminder of what happened when the issue was not taken seriously.

What happens next?

The archdiocese will immediately work to implement the recommendations of the report, most of which deal with how we investigate historical allegations and respond to survivors who are now adults. To our faithful: we would encourage you to attend one of the safe environment training classes that are required for our priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who work with children. We would also encourage you to find ways to support your current priests, who far too often are judged as guilty by association. Finally, we should all continue to pray for the healing of everyone impacted by sexual abuse.

COMING UP: Ms. Taylor: St. Louis’ fourth grade founder

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The following interview was conducted by the eighth grade class of 2020 at St. Louis Catholic School in Louisville to honor Ms. Lydia Taylor, the school’s beloved fourth grade teacher who is retiring after 20 years of teaching at St. Louis.

Our beloved fourth grade teacher, Ms. Taylor, has been working at St. Louis for over 20 years. As such, she has plenty of experience teaching in a Catholic environment. Since she is retiring this year, the 8th grade class at St. Louis decided to interview her and find out about Ms. Taylor. These are just a few of the many answers we received from her.

What are some things you wish more people understood about teaching in a Catholic School?

“I feel like we address the whole person… and [teach] life skills that can be carried on into their grown-up lives.”

Ms. Taylor feels that in Catholic schools, children receive an education that is applicable in all aspects of life, not just the academic portion. Catholic school teachers help children with social skills and independence among other skills. At public schools, teachers don’t get to know their students on a personal level, unlike Catholic schools. A personal connection with their students allows teachers to educate them on important life matters. Our Catholic faith and morals also allow our teachers to help students without having to worry about offending or insulting them.

What will you miss most about teaching at St. Louis?

“I’m going to miss the students for sure, and I’m actually going to miss the parents. I have had a lot of friendships over the years… A lot of my teaching friends have left before me, but I still keep in touch with them.”

Since Ms. Taylor was hired at St. Louis three days before the school year started, her room was a mess, and she wasn’t going to be able to clean it up in time. The parents at St. Louis saw how worried she was and stepped in to help by cleaning her room and organizing her lesson plan. She says she has met some truly incredible people here at St. Louis.

How would you like to spend your summers when you leave St. Louis?

“I think I’m going to move back East and vacation here in the summers… When I became a teacher, I thought I would have the summers to write, but I don’t, so I will probably catch up on my writing when I retire.”

Ms. Taylor has a passion for writing and even used to be a newspaper reporter. Her passion to write is still strong, and she hopes to do plenty of it when she retires.

Ms. Taylor with the eight grade class of 2020 at St. Louis. (Photos provided)

What accomplishments fill you with pride over the last 20 years at St. Louis?

“Having student teachers come back. I enjoy having my students come back wanting to pursue a job as a teacher.”

Ms. Taylor feels that she did her job properly when she inspires her students so much that they come back asking for assistance so that they can be just like her. She also enjoys hearing from students who have graduated and she can see what they are up to and how she impacted their lives.

Is there a quote/ saying that you live your life by?

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Ms. Taylor believes that if you want to improve the world, you will have to set a good example of how we should treat each other and how we should live our lives. Ms. Taylor sets a good example for her children in hopes that they will go out and set a good example for the rest of the world.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” Ms. Taylor believes.

She thinks that people shouldn’t worry as much about the minor issues in life but focus on the things that are more important.

What would students be surprised to find out about you?

“This is kind of embarrassing, but I was actually in the Mrs. Massachusetts pageant… It was great for all my friends because they got to watch me up on the stage, but for me, it was like, “What do we do now?” and “Why am I doing this?”

Ms. Taylor also brought in a picture of a quilt she made with her class one year, which hung in the capitol building for one month. The whole class received official certificates of their work from the quilt, and the quilt sold for $2,000 at our school’s Gala.

Ms. Taylor is an incredible teacher and has been here for her students for over 20 years. We wish her luck in her further adventures and will always remember her here at St. Louis as an amazing teacher and friend.