Skip to comments."Our little secret"
Posted on 07/29/2005 7:17:27 AM PDT by Millee
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver was told at least three times of child sex-abuse allegations against one of its priests but continued to allow him to serve and moved him from parish to parish for years, according to interviews with alleged victims, one of his former superiors and church documents obtained by The Denver Post.
Since the newspaper on Tuesday detailed one allegation against the former priest, 72-year-old Harold Robert White of Denver, seven other men have come to The Post with allegations of being fondled or sexually abused by White in the 1960s.
The men, all of whom are now in their 50s, described being fondled by White in a swimming pool, while driving his car, at church rectories and at a mountain cabin. While some alleged victims kept quiet, others said they alerted parents or church officials as early as the middle to late 1960s, when White was still early in his career as a priest.
In an interview with The Post last week, White said he did not recall the alleged victim who had been interviewed, and he would not answer questions about whether he had ever been accused.
An archdiocesan spokesman would not comment on the specifics of White's history but emphasized it is committed to helping heal all those involved.
One of the men, who grew up on a farm in the northeastern Colorado town of Sterling, provided copies of correspondence between him and the archdiocese showing that he alleged to the archdiocese in 1988 that White had molested him in the late 1960s.
The man requested anonymity. The Denver Post does not name victims of alleged sexual abuse unless they give consent.
In an Aug. 30, 1988, letter to the alleged victim, the Very Rev. Michael Chamberlain wrote that the archbishop at the time, J. Francis Stafford, had met with White.
Stafford, 72, is now a prominent cardinal in Rome serving on a Vatican congregation that rules on whether to remove accused priests from ministry. Reached by phone at his Rome residence Thursday night, Stafford would not comment directly on White.
"The only response I can give is I am fully supportive of the archbishop's statement," Stafford said, referring to a statement Tuesday by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in which Chaput outlines steps taken to safeguard children. "It's been so long that I've been involved in these issues, I really do have to leave it at that," Stafford said. In the 1988 letter, Chamberlain went on to write: "I have been given to understand
VIDEO Denver Post reporter Eric Gorski's stories about the alleged abuse have drawn many more tips from former parishioners. 9News reporter Bazi Kanani's report on the widening Post investigation aired on 9News at Ten, July 28, 2005.
that Father White is to receive an evaluation from competent personnel to determine whether there are any recurring difficulties."
White served at three more parishes in subsequent years and remained in the ministry until 1993. He was laicized, or removed from the priesthood, last year.
The archdiocese knew about potential problems with White well before the 1980s, however. The Rev. James E. Kane, White's former superior at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Sterling, confirmed that he notified then- Archbishop James Casey in the middle to late 1960s about an allegation against White. The person who came forward, according to Kane, "in no way wanted (White) harmed" but instead wanted to help him.
Kane, now retired, refused to answer questions about what happened as a result of his report to Casey, who died in 1986.
"I am a good friend of Father White's, and I personally like Father White, and I personally think this publicity is scandalous because I feel if a person has an illness, whatever it should be, what we should do for these people is pray for them and not criticize them or write stories about them," Kane said. "We should hate sin, but we should love sinners just like Jesus hated sin and loved sinners."
Since the clergy abuse scandal began in Boston in 2002 and spread across the country, the church in Colorado has largely escaped the flood of allegations, lawsuits and criminal investigations elsewhere.
But the revelations about White this week suggest Colorado was not immune, that within its borders worked a priest who was accused of molesting multiple victims and was moved from place to place even after the church had been warned about him.
The Denver archdiocese declined Thursday to answer questions about how allegations against White were handled.
"It is important to keep in mind that the Archdiocese of Denver in any significant case has always been guided by the best expert advice available at the time," said Sergio Gutierrez, a spokesman for the archdiocese. "We have and will continue to approach these difficult situations with a spirit of goodwill and in a manner that is just, prudent and provides healing to all involved."
On Tuesday, The Denver Post reported the allegation of Brandon Trask, a 49-year-old Southern California man who alleges that White molested him in the early 1970s while White served as pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Minturn. Trask alerted the archdiocese this spring, and the church has agreed to pay for his counseling, which the archdiocese says is not necessarily an admission of wrongdoing.
There is no evidence White has faced criminal charges. In an interview last week, White said he could not remember Trask or his allegations. He would not answer questions about whether he had ever been accused of child sexual abuse. White did not respond to messages Thursday left at his apartment in a Denver retirement community.
In recent days, several other men have contacted The Post, all telling similar stories about White during his first four parish postings in the 1960s.
Gary Wolf was an altar boy at St. Catherine parish in north Denver in the early 1960s while White served as an assistant pastor. Wolf said White often invited eighth-grade boys to drive his new white Buick or Mercury. White, according to Wolf, would sit in the passenger seat and fondle him when it was his turn to drive. He did the same to him in the sacristy, where priests and altar boys prepare for Mass, Wolf said.
"He would fondle you and go, 'I'm just a priest, I'm here to show my love for you,"' said Wolf, 55, of Westminster. "I'd try to push him away, and he'd say, 'There's nothing wrong with this.' I never let it go any further than that. I knew it wasn't right."
Wolf said he told his parents and nuns at school, but they didn't believe him.
"You know, in those days they thought a priest could do no wrong," said Wolf, who believes what happened to him played a role in personal problems, including two broken marriages. "I was upset because I wasn't lying, and they all thought I was."
More allegations followed White to his next assignment, St. Mary's parish in Colorado Springs, which at the time was part of the Archdiocese of Denver.
A 56-year-old Colorado Springs man who requested anonymity said White befriended his large Catholic family, often coming over for dinner.
The man said that when he was 15, he and his buddies from the football team were taken by White east of town, where the priest let him drive his new 1963 or 1964 Monte Carlo.
On one trip, the man said White put his hand on the boy's thigh, and he slapped it away.
Not long after, White, a pilot, flew the boy, his brother and two friends in a Cessna 150 to White's family cabin near Grand Lake, the man said.
That night, White insisted the boy sleep in his bed, the man said. He said he woke up to find White groping him. He was terrified. He rolled to his side.
The pope seriously needs to say this is grounds for manditory defrocking, and the defrocking of any bishops who ignore claims without a proper investigation.
I was recently on another forum and this subject came up sometimes in the Religion Forum. Many loyal Catholics became upset and complained to the mods that some posters were being "anti-Catholic". Seems now the mods there have agreed and have greatly circumscribed the parameters of this discussion within more politically correct confines.
Glad to see it discussed here though. It is my understanding that Benedict takes these cases very seriously so there should be a good housecleaning in no time. Could start with Cardinal Bernard Law who still has some perks in the Vatican and even runs his own church over there.
I forgot to state that this was an excerpt. Click on the link for the rest of the story. Sorry!
Yes, I agree that Pope Benedict will go forward with a good house cleaning, but I've also been given some insight into Pope John Paul's reluctance to aggressively investigate the problem. Having had the experience of living under both the Nazis and the Commies, John Paul was well acquainted with the tactic of making false accusations of homosexuality as a means of destroying a person. As a result, he was not convinced of the legitimacy of the claims and not willing to lend credibility to them. It was a mistake, but an understandable one given his life experiences.
Pope Benedict was part of the problem for decades.
I am so mad at the church leaders I could spit. This was a serious issue to many of us long before the law suits, settlements, court cases, arrests and media attention. The parish members were confronted with an attitude beyond belief. It was almost as if we were entering a private chamber of strange men devoid of any common sense or sexual morality. They would not listen, treated adults like fools and shut the door on any discussion. I am glad to see the leaders brought into the spotlight and held accountable. It is decades overdue.
Of course the comPost has ulterior motives. Chaput has had to clean up a lot of messes left by Casey and Stafford. Gourley and White are just two of them.
I am not Catholic, but I sure do like Chaput.
Supposedly, Stafford was well-respected for having dealt with such monstrosities in the priesthood. Looks like that's going to be re-evaluated now.
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