12/1/20: Update on completion of independent review and reparations process

Read Archbishop's Letter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We must face the past and learn from it, and we must know if our children are safe today. Thanks to our ongoing vigilance, they are.

A year ago, I made a promise that the Archdiocese of Denver would not hide from the past and must face the historical sexual abuse of minors by its diocesan priests. In February I wrote to you, advising you that we were working with the Attorney General’s office to invite an independent third-party investigator, former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer, to conduct an independent review of all three dioceses in Colorado. The scope of that work is documented in a written agreement, which is published on our website and the Attorney General’s website, and anyone who reads that document will understand it was a sweeping investigation.

I want to thank Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Mr. Troyer for their efforts to work with us to protect children. This was not an easy task for anyone involved.

In order to honor the faithful clergy and laity of this archdiocese, and express the seriousness of my resolve, I SOLEMNLY PROMISE the following:

To Everyone

  • The Archdiocese of Denver strives to be a highly reliable and ethically sound institution in our business practices, personnel assignments and protection of the vulnerable.
  • Allegations of sexual abuse of a minor will always be properly reported to local authorities. I will continue the Archdiocese of Denver’s strong track record of cooperation with law enforcement.
  • I will immediately remove a member of the clergy or any other church worker from active ministry during an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor.
  • I take very seriously all reported incidents of misconduct by members of the clergy or other Church workers, and we will investigate even non-criminal misconduct with great diligence.
  • I will never transfer a member of the clergy who is under investigation.
  • I will remove from ministry permanently and without the ability to be transferred to any other Catholic institution, any member of the clergy who is found to have had sexual misconduct with a minor.
  • We hold ourselves accountable for addressing misconduct whenever we are made aware of it.
  • All priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who are around children are trained on how to spot signs of abuse and neglect, and are trained in their role as mandatory state reporters.
  • I adhere with great diligence to all of our internal policies and procedures.
  • I will continue to strengthen our institutional training, screening, and monitoring of all clergy members, employees, and volunteers.

To the Catholic Faithful of the Archdiocese

  • I will continue to uphold the teachings of the Church, especially in the areas of sexual morality.
  • I will correct anyone in any Catholic institution in the Archdiocese who is found to be undermining the teachings of the Church.
  • I will defend the Catholic faith from assaults that come from either inside or outside the Church.
  • I demand and will continue to enforce a strict and diligent screening process for all seminary applicants.

To all Priests and Deacons

  • I am grateful for your lifelong commitment to serve the Church.
  • I will protect you from false accusations and strive to preserve your good name.
  • I honor your rights and I will ensure that due process is followed if you are ever accused of misconduct.
  • I will provide you with even better on-going formation, tools, and resources to ensure your physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being.

To Seminarians

  • I will ensure that the continual evaluation process, while rigorous, is fair.
  • I will continue to provide honorable and trustworthy priests to oversee your formation.
  • You will be heard if you have a concern or complaint about a formator priest, professor, or brother seminarian.
  • I will do everything in my power to help you become the holy priests God called you to be.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the Independent Review?

Former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer was given full access to 70 years of diocesan files concerning the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests—including the so-called “secret archive” files—and the opportunity to interview victims, priests, and other witnesses. His report included an analysis of the diocese’s policies related to preventing and responding to sexual abuse of minors; the dioceses’ compliance with Colorado law requiring the mandatory reporting to law enforcement of abuse allegations; a list of all diocesan priests that are the subject of one or more substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor since 1950.

Why did the Archdiocese agree to the Independent Review?

There were four goals: (1) To publicly acknowledge this history of sexual abuse, and in doing so provide a moment of justice for any survivor and encourage others to come forward; (2) To assure the Attorney General, public and members of the Archdiocese – clergy and laity – that no diocesan priest known to sexually abuse a minor is in active ministry; (3) To identify any needed improvements to our policies and procedures to ensure they are of the highest standard; (4) To allow the  thousands of people who are working to make the Archdiocese a safe environment for children to see the progress of their work.

What was the scope of the Independent Review?

The review focused on all diocesan and extern priests who have served in the Archdiocese between 1950 and today. While religious order priests often serve in our parishes, they report to a different religious superior who maintains their files and handles allegations of misconduct.

What did the Independent Review find?

For the Archdiocese of Denver, the review identifies 21 diocesan and one extern priest who were responsible for more than 120 substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. For some context: the most recent case was in 1999 and no substantiated allegations were found against any current diocesan or extern priest in ministry. Nearly 90-percent of the known abuse happened more than 40 years ago (1950-1979 – see chart below). Over 60-percent of the abuse was committed by two former priests – H. Robert White and Leonard Abercrombie. And roughly 75-percent of the abuse was committed by four former priests – White, Abercrombie, Neil Hewitt and John Holloway – none of whom have been in ministry for the last 26 years.

What is the status of the priests named in the report?

Of the 22 priests, 15 of them are dead and none of the other seven are in active ministry. The most recent substantiated allegation in the report was perpetrated by Timothy Evans in 1999. Evans has been laicized and served time in prison. More details in the FULL FAQ.

Are my children safe in Catholic parishes or schools?

Yes. The policies and procedures that have been implemented and strengthened over the last three decades have shown to be effective. Every priest, deacon, employee and volunteer who works with children must pass a background check and attend safe-environment training to be educated on preventing, spotting and responding to potential abuse. We currently have 14,000 trained mandatory reporters, and every year approximately 20,000 children are taught how to keep themselves safe. We have also strengthened our seminary screening and formation process to better prepare our future priests.

What happens next?

The archdiocese will immediately work to implement the recommendations of the report, most of which deal with how we investigate historical allegations and respond to survivors who are now adults. To our faithful: we would encourage you to attend one of the safe environment training classes that are required for our priests, deacons, employees and volunteers who work with children. We would also encourage you to find ways to support your current priests, who far too often are judged as guilty by association. Finally, we should all continue to pray for the healing of everyone impacted by sexual abuse.

Five things for Catholics to keep in mind regarding the Independent File Review

Understanding the Report

The published report is over 250 pages. It is divided up by diocese, and further divided up into sub-sections as specified by the original agreement. It is a lot to process. On this page, we provide some basic context to what the review found, along with the list of priests who are identified in the report.

Learn More


Reasons for Review

On February 19, 2019, all three Colorado dioceses voluntarily entered into an agreement with the Colorado attorney general to review our priest personnel files to determine those who have substantiated allegations of sexually abusing a minor. Look back at why we choose to make this agreement and at the impact of the wider church.

Learn More