State clergy members address sex assault scandal


— The Rev. George Schroeder of Holy Name Catholic Church in Steamboat Springs said Thursday he addressed the child-molestation scandal that has rocked the priesthood in a sermon three weeks ago.

This Sunday, other priests across the state are expected to do the same. The Catholic Archdiocese of Denver has asked priests to leave room in their Sunday sermons for a special message dealing with the scandal that has troubled the church nationwide.

''It will be a reflection on the passion, this being Palm Sunday, and it will in some way address the challenges that the church is facing during a difficult time,'' archdiocese spokesman Greg Kail said Thursday.

Several priests said they were told they would be faxed the archbishop's statement. Schroeder had not received anything from the archbishop as of late Thursday.

In his sermon, Schroeder used the Biblical story of Jesus and the woman at the well to convey the importance of openness and sincerity.

Jesus, though Jewish and a man, addressed the woman, who was a Samaritan. Such an act went against the social customs of the time, which taught that Jews, and men in particular, were above the Samaritan people.

Schroeder said he included the discussion in his sermon because the allegations of widespread abuse had already reached news outlets, and he felt he should be straightforward with his congregation about the controversy.

"I felt I should be honest with our people," he said.

During his sermon, Schroeder took a moment to apologize to anyone in the congregation who might have fallen victim to such sexual misconduct or knew anyone who had.

"I told them here, we would guarantee the purity and innocence of every child," he said.

Schroeder said he did not know when he might receive information from the archbishop.

The request from the Catholic Archdiocese came as Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter met with church officials and a church lawyer Wednesday to ensure the archdiocese was enforcing its own sexual abuse policy.

Colorado law does not obligate clergy to report child abuse, but the Denver Archdiocese, which has 380,000 parishioners, requires anyone working for the archdiocese, including priests, to report to authorities any case of child abuse or neglect brought to their attention.

Archbishop Charles Chaput on Wednesday posted a statement on the Denver Catholic Register Web site saying sexual misconduct will not be tolerated.

''If you're like me, you've watched the news about sexual misconduct scandals in Boston and other dioceses with a mixture of confusion and distress,'' Chaput wrote.

He noted he dealt aggressively with sexual misconduct as a bishop in Rapid City, S.D., a decade ago, and he said the Denver archdiocese became one of the first in the country to adopt a formal sexual misconduct policy, in 1991.

The Denver archdiocese's policy says sexual misconduct is ''contrary to moral instructions and the laws of the Catholic Church.''

Under the policy, every church employee and clergy member must sign the policy, and Catholic school teachers must undergo fingerprinting and background screening. Every charity employee or volunteer goes through a Colorado Bureau of Investigation background check. A special conduct-response team investigates allegations of sexual misconduct.

In the wake of the recent scandals, district attorneys in Colorado have met with church officials, employees and Catholic schools to advise them on how to report child abuse.

Allegations of child sexual abuse by priests gained national attention in January when documents revealed Boston church officials had ignored abuse allegations against a former priest convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy. The former priest, John Geoghan, has been accused of molesting more than 130 other children over 30 years.

The Boston Archdiocese issued its own zero-tolerance policy in January as the criticism continued. Since then, dozens of priests across the country out of more than 47,000 nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign. A Florida bishop is the highest-ranking clergyman brought down by the scandal.


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