Accused Catholic priests

Photographs of Catholic priests who worked in Colorado and also had at least one public report of child sexual abuse are on display at The Denver Press Club on Nov. 13.

Sixteen more victims of alleged sexual abuse by priests in Colorado’s three Roman Catholic dioceses have come forward since the Oct. 23 release of an independent report detailing substantiated accounts of at least 166 children who were harmed by 43 priests, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

Among those now seeking compensation is an El Paso County resident.

Daniel Masias told The Gazette that from the age of 8 to 14, while he attended the Sacred Heart Cathedral School in Pueblo in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was fondled and inappropriately touched by several priests working at the Catholic school that closed in 1971.

His account was not among those outlined in the special master’s report, Roman Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children in Colorado from 1950 to 2019, which concluded that at least 127 children were victimized by 22 Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Denver, three children were harmed by two predatory priests in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, and 36 children were sexually abused by 19 priests in the Diocese of Pueblo.

More than two-thirds of Colorado’s 166 child victims were sexually abused during the 1960s and 1970s.

The most recent case — that victims reported and that Colorado’s dioceses recorded in their files — occurred when a Denver priest sexually abused four children in 1998.

The Diocese of Colorado Springs’ most recent incident took place around 1986. The Diocese of Pueblo’s most recent sexual abuse case was in 1989, with a child sexual misconduct incident documented in 2011.

He said he is presenting an 18-page statement with information to back up his case.

Masias decided to file a complaint after reading about the report, which included a call for child sex-abuse victims who have not yet done so to consider filing claims.

“I thought it was a good thing — the Catholic Church is trying to make a good-faith effort to rectify all the hurt that happened to all these young children, including me,” he said.

As of Thursday, the Washington, D.C., law offices of Kenneth R. Feinberg had received 28 compensation claims for Colorado dioceses, said Camille Biros, the firm’s business manager and co-administrator of the Colorado fund.

The deadline for victims to file a compensation claim is Jan. 31.

“We speak with many, many claimants on a weekly basis,” Biros said via email.

The law firm’s work to oversee compensation funds for survivors of clergy sex abuse began in the fall of 2016 with the Archdiocese of New York and has expanded to dioceses in Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey and Colorado.

The toll-free claim line, 833-521-0015, is open weekdays.

While Masias said he told his parents about what was going on while he was at school about six decades ago, nothing happened in response.

“It wasn’t talked about,” he said. “In my experience, it was sacred.”

Masias, who’s now 70, would like an apology from the church, “To recognize how terrible they treated me; I was just a little boy.”

Masias, who was raised by a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, now defines himself as “not religious.”

If he receives monetary compensation from the victims fund, Masias said he plans to donate the money to local charities.

“I don’t hate the Catholic religion or anything,” Masias said. “I don’t have any axes to grind against the Catholic Church; I give them credit for trying to make amends.”

The special master’s report, which encompasses substantiated cases from 70 years of diocesan records, does not include claims of abuse of minor children by religious order priests and other clergy who were not under the state’s Catholic dioceses.

“There are plans for a supplemental report that includes the additional claims and other issues, which the special master is considering releasing sometime in March,” Attorney General’s Office spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said.

Three weeks after the Colorado Attorney General’s Office released the special master’s report, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson held a news conference in Denver, saying he’s identified more than double the number of abusers.

Calling the special master’s report “far from complete,” Anderson said at least 59 additional Catholic clergymen, including several from religious orders of priests who often work in schools, can be linked to sexual abuse of minors.

The attorney general’s report stated that at least nine additional priests sexually abused youths in the state, but because they worked for religious orders instead of dioceses, they were not covered in the investigation.

Several adults who said they were abused as children by Catholic priests in Colorado joined Anderson in saying the scope is greater than initially portrayed.

Retired Colorado Springs attorney John Murphy, who was among the speakers at the November news conference, said he and his brothers were abused at a summer camp in the 1950s by a priest named in the attorney general’s report.

The priests deceived children and stole their trust, Murphy said.

A victims advocate line also is set up at 720-508-6003.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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