Catholics in Colorado held their first Sunday Masses today since a comprehensive investigation about sexual abuse by priests over the past seven decades.
Parishioners at Benet Hill Monastery in Colorado Springs said they were upset by the findings, but they’re not surprised.
“Unfortunately since the middle-80s, this has been going on,” said Fred Reichert, who attended services at the Monastery on Sunday. “So when the report came out last week… I saw more of the same. It's kind of like a drop, drop, drop, or when will the next shoe drop?”
The special report released last week by the Colorado Attorney General’s office showed that much of the abuse actually took place earlier than Reichert noted. More than 160 Colorado children were sexually abused by 43 priests starting in the 1950s. Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses — in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — spent decades covering up that abuse.
Reichert grew up Catholic. He said the report hasn’t changed his relationship with the church and he’s praying harder now, especially for those who helped cover it up.
Reichert’s wife Erika agreed. She said she is concerned about how many cases of abuse were documented in the investigation, and the possibility that there may still be predatory priests.
“I think that there are still priests out there and probably young men, who are going into the priesthood, who have that tendency and they need to be screened and they can't be protected,” she said.
The investigation found no credible, documented cases of abuse in the last 20 years, but also warned that the church’s insufficient record keeping and reporting processes make it impossible to conclude that children are safe today.
Father Bob Lambert, who gave the Mass Sunday at Benet Hill, which was not named in the investigation, didn’t discuss the report during services. But other churches did.
In Denver, a letter from Archbishop Samuel Aquila was read by some priests at masses, a spokesman with the diocese said. Aquila encouraged parishioners to focus on the church’s clean track record over the last two decades, and said he’s confident in the progress the church has made.
“We are truly blessed with the priests in our Archdiocese!” an excerpt from the letter read. “Now we must learn from the suffering of the victims and never assume that we could not face another perpetrator in our midst... We, more than any organization in this Country, know we must be vigilant."
Father Jim Baron at Holy Apostles Catholic Church in Colorado Springs — the site of one case of abuse from the 1980s included in the report — addressed the findings in a video. He said he was “disturbed and shocked” at the revelation. Baron said anyone who suspects or becomes aware of an incident of child abuse should contact law enforcement or the reporting hotline.
Reichert said he thinks some parishes, like Benet Hill, do a better job than others at recognizing the institution’s wrongdoing by being open to talking about it.
Marilyn Richard, another Benet Hill parishioner, agreed. She said her relationship with the church as an institution has changed as a result of past revelations of abuse and Benet Hill has been a sort of refuge for her as a Catholic to grow spiritually.
“How can you trust a hierarchy that covers up something so vile?” she said.
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