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The inside of a church with pews.
Christ the King Chapel, on the campus of the Archdiocese of Denver, is the chapel used by seminary students seeking the priesthood. (Photo provided by the Archdiocese of Denver)

Colorado’s three Catholic dioceses have paid $6.68 million to 73 survivors of sexual abuse by priests. 

That’s according to an update Friday from the managers of the state’s Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, which fielded claims from survivors and determined their credibility and eligibility for compensation, and how much money each should be given by the church. 

Eight claims were rejected by the IRRP. Another eight claims are pending because the survivors are waiting to receive payment, have not received their compensation offers or must still report their abuse to law enforcement before their cases can move forward. 

“Of the 81 eligible claimants, some were previously unknown abuse survivors, demonstrating success in reaching survivors previously unwilling or unable to come forward and receive help,” Amy Weiss, a spokeswoman for the IRRP, said in a news release sent on behalf of the Independent Oversight Committee that presides over the reparations programs.

MORE: A Denver priest — his dad’s best friend — raped him. The state’s Catholic Church abuse report revealed the secret.

To be eligible for compensation, survivors must have been abused when they were children.  

“I know that money cannot fully heal the wounds you suffered but hope that those of you who came forward felt heard, acknowledged — and that the reparations offer a measure of justice and access to resources,” Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila wrote in a letter to his archdiocese Friday.

Aquila noted that no survivors have alleged that their abuse happened in the past two decades.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. (Photo provided by Brandon Young, Archdiocese of Denver)

The IRRP was run by Camille Biros and attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg, who have worked on a number of compensation programs following tragedies across the country, including the 2012 Aurora theater shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

The IRRP was created as part of an agreement between the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the Catholic dioceses of Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, which agreed to open their records to inspection. An independent investigation as part of the deal found that at least 166 children were abused by at least 43 priests in Colorado dating back to 1950. 

MORE: At least 166 children have been sexually abused by Catholic priests in Colorado since 1950, new report finds

The seven-month investigation, which culminated with a report released in October 2019, found that on average it took nearly 20 years for the church to stop an abusive priest after receiving an abuse allegation. More than half of the child victims identified by the review were sexually abused after the diocese was made aware that the priests were abusers.

The investigation was funded by anonymous donors and began after former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman started exploring how to investigate priest abuse, including the possibility of using a grand jury.

Many of the claims settled by the IRRP involved priests named in the report. However, some survivors whose claims were deemed eligible said they were abused by priests who had not been previously identified, according to Weiss.

Weiss says the claims process is now closed and the program is winding down. The outstanding claims are expected to be resolved in the coming months. 

A supplemental report on abusive priests and their victims is expected to be released by the attorney general’s office before the end of the year. It’s likely additional priests and victims will be identified in the update. 

“I am confident that the work and commitment of our priests, deacons, employees and volunteers are making our churches and schools among the safest places in our state for children,” Aquila wrote in his letter. “However, this process continues to remind us that we can never be complacent, that evil lurks in all corners of our society, and that we must always work to stamp out those who wish to do harm and violate the trust of our children. This work has undoubtedly reaffirmed our resolve to do everything we can to protect children in our church and beyond.”

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul