Investigation finds Colorado Catholic priests allegedly abused at least 166 children over decades
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A seven-month investigation in Colorado accuses dozens of Catholic priests of abusing at least 166 children, according to a report released Wednesday. 

The 263-page report, commissioned by the Colorado attorney general’s office, reveals that former U.S. attorney Bob Troyer reviewed more than 500 priest files in the state and interviewed victims, witnesses, priests and law enforcement, CNN reported.

The report found that the majority of the incidents took place in the 1960s and the 1970s. The most recent allegations in the document involve a Denver priest who was accused in 1998 of sexually abusing four children, according to CNN.

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Forty-three priests in total are accused of sexually abusing children, according to a Denver CBS affiliate.

"This is a dark and painful history," Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser told reporters, according to CNN. "The culture going back decades was one where there was a reluctance to acknowledge and address wrongdoing."

One of the priests accused in the report, Father Harold Robert White, allegedly abused at least 63 children over 21 years. He is called the “most prolific known clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history."

White served in six parishes beginning in 1960, until he was removed from the ministry in 1993. He was never placed on any restrictions, and he never underwent an investigation or received a psychiatric evaluation.

"When he had sexually abused enough children at a parish that scandal threatened to erupt, the Denver Archdiocese moved him to a new one geographically distant enough that White was not known there," the report states, CNN reported.

The report says it is “impossible” to determine with certainty that no child abuse has taken place in recent years due to the Catholic Church’s record keeping in the state. However, the priest files reviewed by Troyer do not specifically list any priest actively in the ministry who has been accused of abusing children, according to CNN.

However, the investigation has been criticized by victims’ groups, The New York Times reported. They have specifically targeted the investigation’s reliance on the voluntary participation of the church.

The state’s three dioceses — Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo — all gave files to the investigation.

“That’s all well and good but, how do you enforce that you got all the files?” Zach Hiner, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said, according to The New York Times. “I appreciate that the A.G. is leaving the door open for a true grand jury investigation, and I hope that he will push for that authority now."  

The report also said that the investigation did not “chronicle abuse committed by religious-order priests in Colorado or by Diocesan priests before they were ordained.

“It does not report clergy sexual misconduct with adults, including adult Church personnel like religious sisters or adult seminary students,” the report says, according to The New York Times.

Authorities and church officials announced a settlement fund for abuse victims, CNN reported. Victims who have previously reported abuse and those who make reports now can submit a compensation request.  

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila apologized to the victims in a video and a letter posted online.

“I apologize for the pain and hurt that this abuse has caused. I am sorry about this horrible history — but it is my promise to continue doing everything I can so it never happens again. My sincere hope is that this report provides some small measure of justice and healing," he said.

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"Despicable things happened in our parishes, and at the time there were incredible failures to properly address them," Mark Haas, director of public relations for the Archdiocese of Denver, said in a statement to The Hill. 

He added "The Archdiocese of Denver in 2019 is much different than it was decades ago. We have taken huge steps to address this issue, and the report documents the dramatic decrease in known substantiated allegations.  We make no claim that the problem is forever solved, but rather are reminded today that we must remain vigilant to ensure our parishes and schools remain safe." 

Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Colorado Springs Diocese said in a Wednesday statement "One victim of the horrific crime of child sexual abuse is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must own the consequences of having three. One predator priest is too many; the Diocese of Colorado Springs must recognize and repent of two." 

The Hill reached out to the state’s three dioceses for comment. 

If you are a sexual assault survivor you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or reach it online at hotline.rainn.org/online