Channel 9 in Denver ran a story tonight about more allegations against White. If the stories prove to be true it looks like he was shuffled around by Chaputs' predecessors Stafford, Casey and Vehr. The Denver Post is supposed to have an article in tomorrows paper with comments from Stafford. Casey and Vehr are long ago deceased.
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 Rev. Harold White in a 1967 photo
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 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. He curled up into a fetal position. But the priest, he said, kept making advances in the dark of the night.
"He chased me all night," the man said. "He never did get me."
Arriving home the next day, the man said he immediately told his parents. His parents believed him. He said all three of them reported what happened to White's supervisor at the parish, Monsignor Robert H. Hoffman, who died in 1997.
The next day, the man said, White was gone from St. Mary's. The archdiocese won't confirm that.
"I am very fortunate because I had strong character and my mom had strong character, and I'm sure it saved me from all the agony these other poor guys went through," the man said.
Allegations surfaced at White's next assignment at St. Anthony's Church in Sterling, according to both the anonymous man who complained to the archdiocese and Greg Roberts, 52, a former altar boy at the parish who contacted The Post.
Roberts said White, a handsome, affable priest with a cleft in his chin, fondled him and other boys while giving them rides in his Pontiac Grand Prix.
"I thought, 'This is weird,' and I didn't know anything about homosexual advances or gayness," said Roberts, who works at a Fort Collins senior center. "This was not something you expected from a person you trusted implicitly."
He said he told his parents, who went to Kane, the pastor. White was gone from the parish shortly afterward, Roberts said.
Kane confirmed that someone reported a claim to him and that he contacted Casey, the archbishop. But he declined to provide further details. Said Kane: "It's sad Father White has to be dragged through this stuff."
But the report by Kane did not end White's career. In 1968, he was assigned to St. John the Evangelist Church in Loveland. A Loveland man who requested anonymity said that when he was a 13- or 14-year-old altar boy, White bought wine coolers for him and his friends and let them drive his Ford Bronco or took them skiing at Vail.
The man said White would "start off wrestling with us, and next thing you knew he was fondling." He said White fondled him while he was at home after getting his appendix removed. White told him, "Don't tell anyone - it's our little secret," the man said.
"He was actually a really nice guy, really persuasive," the man said. "I guess it shamed me more than anything. I didn't know whether it was right or wrong."
The most detailed account of how the Denver Archdiocese dealt with complaints about White is outlined in a series of letters between the archdiocese and one of the alleged Sterling victims, a 53-year-old man who now lives in Michigan but has family in the Colorado farm town. The man provided copies of the letters to The Post.
In a phone interview, the man said that when he was 15 or 16, his parents were having marriage troubles and White invited him to spend the night at the rectory.
He alleges that he woke up in the middle of the night to find White performing oral sex on him. He said White did the same thing to him at the mountain cabin.
"He made it seem like I was really special to him," the man said. "I was having problems relating to my father. (White) cared about me. But I was consumed with guilt, believing it had to be me, something about me."
The man said the experience began to haunt him again in about 1986, after he got into a car accident. For the first time, he told his mother and his sister.
He and his sister traveled to Denver to talk to archdiocesan officials. At the meeting, the man requested compensation for therapy bills. He said he also asked that White be pulled from parish work and get counseling.
In a September 1988 letter, the man pressed the archdiocese for details about the "competent personnel" who church officials said were dealing with the allegation.
He requested an acknowledgment and an apology from White and "fair monetary compensation" for what he had endured. He wrote that he suffered from severe guilt and stress, alienation and damaged male relationships.
He wrote he hoped it could be resolved "without a civil and/or criminal suit being filed against Father White and the church."
A reply came a few weeks later from one of the archdiocese's lawyers. In a Sept. 19 letter, attorney Charles Goldberg told the man that archdiocesan officials had listened carefully to what he and his sister had said. "You may be assured that they have reacted appropriately ...," Goldberg wrote.
The letter provided no details. In any case, White remained in ministry for another five years.
The next month, the man wrote back and reiterated his earlier requests. But he said he never got answers or compensation from the Denver archdiocese.
The man contacted the archdiocese again in 1994. The Very Rev. R. Walker Nickless, the archdiocese's vicar general at the time, responded in a letter, "I want to express my apology for what you state has happened to you. The behavior you described is totally unacceptable and is not tolerated by anyone in the Archdiocese of Denver."
In December 2002, the man wrote again, this time to the current archbishop, Chaput. He asked why his requests of 14 years earlier had, in his words, been ignored. He wondered whether other complaints were unheeded. "The victims," the man wrote, "seem to become the villains."
Chaput responded with a letter apologizing for the man's suffering and for correspondence that may have seemed insensitive. He offered to pay for the man's counseling and to meet with him personally.
Chaput closed by offering goodwill and prayers to the man and his mother, who had recently sent a Christmas card to the Denver archbishop.
Staff writer Eric Gorski can be reached at 303-820-1698 or email@example.com