Colorado’s Catholic Dioceses Pay Out $6.6 Million To Settle Abuse Claims

October 16, 2020
Denver ArchdioceseDenver ArchdioceseJim Hill/CPR News
The Archdiocese of Denver is headquartered at the St. John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization in the Cory-Merrill neighborhood of Denver, Colo.

Colorado’s three Catholic dioceses said on Friday they had paid out $6.6 million in settlements to 73 survivors of priest abuse after a state probe led by Attorney General Phil Weiser last year found more than 160 children were victimized in the state over the course of 70 years.

The concept of paying compensation to victims was part of an agreement reached by Weiser and the three dioceses, in Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, last year. 

The fund, called the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, was run by two victims compensation independent experts. People with credible claims of past abuse could apply for compensation for up to a year, from October 2019 through October 2020. 

There was no limit on how far back the alleged abuse occurred and the church did not put a cap on what they were going to pay out for victims when the fund was set up.

In the preliminary results of the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, church representatives said:

  • 98 people filed claims with administrators.
  • 81 of the 98 claimants were determined eligible for compensation
  • Of those 81, some were previously unknown abuse survivors
  • To date, no victim has rejected compensation.

Of eight additional people who qualified, but whose claims have not yet been settled, one is in process, four have not responded to compensation offers and three need to notify police of the claim, as required by the compensation program, a spokesman for the Denver Archdiocese said. 

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila said he wanted to meet with all of the survivors who participated in the program, so he could offer an apology.

“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,” Aquila wrote to the archdiocese community in an open letter. “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.”

Weiser launched an investigation into child sex abuse at the hands of Colorado priests shortly after he was sworn into office in early 2019. The investigation was led by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, who, with the archdiocese’s cooperation, combed through hundreds of victims' abuse accounts and reports spanning more than 70 years.

Troyer found more than 160 children were abused in Colorado during that time by 43 priests. He did not find any incidents of abuse that happened in the last 20 years, but he didn’t exonerate current leadership either. 

Both Weiser’s office and the dioceses said they plan to release a supplemental report at the end of November.