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Colorado AG: Pueblo Diocese waited months to report child sex abuse allegations

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Catholic Diocese of Pueblo failed to immediately report child sex abuse allegations to police after a victim came forward in February 2020, according to a report released by the Colorado Attorney General's office Tuesday morning.

The victim reported to the Pueblo Diocese that Monsignor Marvin Kapushion sexually abused him in 1984 but police weren't notified until two weeks after Kapushion died in April 2020,  according to the report, which was published by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer.

The former U.S. attorney wrote that the victim reported that when he was 16 and an orphan at Sacred Heart Orphanage, Kapushion fondled him at a Christmas party and forced the boy to touch him.

The report also stated the Pueblo Diocese waited months to have an independent investigator look into those sex abuse allegations, which were brought to them in February of this year. The investigator did not interview the victim because an attorney was representing him, the report said.

According to the report, the investigation into the victim's allegations against Kapushion “found zero substantiated complaints of any kind of abuse toward children,” because it was substantially incomplete.

Kapushion retired from ministry 3 years before the victim reported the alleged sex abuse, the report states.

Troyer wrote in the report that the investigation was sharply limited because of the victim's counsel and "other circumstances" -- but it is not representative of the new independent investigation process the Diocese of Pueblo has now pledged to use moving forward.

Troyer wrote that 59 children were sexually abused by 23 diocesan priests serving in the Pueblo Diocese from 1951 and 1999.

The Diocese of Pueblo told KRDO Tuesday evening they are reviewing the report and declined an interview at this time. They did forward a statement from the Catholic Bishops of Colorado, saying in part:

We hope and pray that this independent review and reparations process over the last two years has provided a measure of justice and healing for the survivors who came forward and shared their stories. We remain heartbroken by the pain they have endured, we again offer our deepest apologies for the past failures of the Church, and we promise that we will always pray for continued healing for them and their families.

We as bishops continue to be willing to meet personally with survivors when they make the request. Even those these specific programs have concluded, we will continue to work with and support anyone who comes forward.

Catholic Bishops of Colorado (full statement at bottom of article)

37 of the 212 alleged child sex abuse incidents in the state were not reported to law enforcement by the relevant diocese when Colorado law required them to do so, according to the report.

The newly released report, which follows an initial investigative report in 2019, did not find any additional sexual abuse victims from the Colorado Springs Diocese. Three victims from the Colorado Springs Diocese had previously come forward.

Bishop Michael Sheridan, of the Colorado Springs Diocese, released a statement after the report was made public on Tuesday:

As this process has unfolded over nearly two years, there have certainly been painful moments. However, today's supplemental report contains grounds for optimism. I am particularly encouraged by the report’s findings that, since the IRRP began in October 2019, no new credible abuse allegations against priests of the Diocese of Colorado Springs have surfaced. I am also heartened by Special Master Troyer’s assessment that our diocese has made great strides in implementing his recommendations. Steps taken include the creation of an independent investigative team, an online intake system for reporting abuse, and the appointment of two victim advocates

None of these positive developments can in any way diminish the pain endured by victims of clergy sexual abuse. However, they represent a step forward in ensuring that the sins of the past are not repeated. I call on all the faithful to join me in praying for the healing of abuse victims, and I promise to do everything in my power to uphold the safety of our children and young people

Bishop Michael Sheridan

Troyer's supplemental investigation found 46 more victims since the Colorado Attorney General’s Office released its first report on clergy sex abuse last fall.

The additional abuse survivors include 37 boys and 9 girls. The majority of children were between 10 and 14 when they were abused, the investigation found.

Most of the sexual abuse cases are unlikely to bring criminal charges because until 2006 Colorado law had a statute of limitations for child sexual abuse that still applies to older cases. The majority of the accused have died, according to the report. AG Weiser said on Tuesday if a case met requirements for a criminal prosecution he would refer it to the local District Attorney.

The church has paid out more than $7 million to Colorado victims since 2019.

"Specifically, these incidents provide further evidence that historically the dioceses enabled clergy child sexual abuse by transferring abusive priests to new parishes; taking no action to restrict their ministry or access to children; concealing the priests’ behavior with secrecy, euphemism, and lack of documentation; silencing victims; and not reporting the abuse to law enforcement," Troyer wrote.

Four of the newly identified accused priests served in Southern Colorado, according to the supplemental investigation by the former U.S. Attorney. At least three of the accused clergy members have died, according to the report.

  • Monsignor Marvin Kapushion, Diocese of Pueblo (Deceased)
  • Father Duane Repola, Diocese of Pueblo (Deceased)
  • Father Carlos Trujillo, Diocese of Pueblo (Left the priesthood decades before being accused, according to report)
  • Father Joseph Walsh, Diocese of Pueblo (Deceased)

KRDO could not independently verify Father Carlos Trujillo's status. The AG's office said all of the information they have on Trujillo was included in the report -- which didn't clarify his current status.

The supplemental investigation focused on victims who reported claims to the Attorney General’s Office or to the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP). From October 2019, the IRRP reviewed claims from victims of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Colorado and provided financial compensation to those claims they deemed were credible, according the AG's office.

“From the time we announced this program in February 2019, our goals were to support and comfort survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and to bring meaningful change to how the Colorado dioceses protect children from sexual abuse. It takes incredible fortitude for victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories, and they are the heroes of this effort,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser.

“I recognize there isn’t one program or dollar amount that can make up for the trauma that many have been through in their lives, but my sincerest hope is that this unique Colorado program has allowed survivors of sexual abuse by a priest to take one more step on the path to healing and recovery.”

The three Colorado dioceses accepted all of the recommendations from the first report, according to Weiser.

Those changes include:

  • Putting in place professional and independent investigation systems;
  • Providing for victim-assistance coordinators whose sole function is to care for victims;
  • Substantially improving records-management systems to facilitate child-abuse reporting and law-enforcement reporting, investigations tracking, and training; and
  • Creating a culture that encourages victims and parishioners to report child sex abuse first and directly to law enforcement.

The three Colorado Diocese have also agreed to regular third-party audits of their child-protection systems, according to the AG's office.

“I am pleased that all of the dioceses in Colorado implemented every recommendation in the first report, and the reforms they have made appear to be meaningful and sound. But as the report points out, these improvements are untested at this point in time, and it will be up to the church to ensure it is creating an environment that is as safe as possible for children now and in the future,” Weiser said.

The Catholic Bishops of Colorado said they are encouraged by the report and believe it show decades of work of proactively addressing this issue related to sexual abuse.

We hope and pray that this independent review and reparations process over the last two years has provided a measure of justice and healing for the survivors who came forward and shared their stories. We remain heartbroken by the pain they have endured, we again offer our deepest apologies for the past failures of the Church, and we promise that we will always pray for continued healing for them and their families.

We as bishops continue to be willing to meet personally with survivors when they make the request. Even those these specific programs have concluded, we will continue to work with and support anyone who comes forward.

We also hope that this process has demonstrated our commitment to continuing to enhance and strengthen our child-protection policies so that the sins of the past do not repeat themselves. We are grateful for the work completed by the Special Master to thoroughly analyze our protocols and make sure they meet the highest of standards for any youth-serving institution.

We are encouraged that the findings of the supplemental report once again highlight that our decades of work of proactively addressing this issue have been largely effective, as evidenced by no known incidents in over 20 years, and over 90 percent of the known incidents occurring 40 to 60 years ago. And after implementing the special master’s recommendations to further strengthen our policies, we believe Catholics and the general public can feel confident that the Church is an extremely safe environment for children.

It is also important to note, that all people who participated in the reparations program had to report their allegation to law enforcement, and their allegations were independently reported by the dioceses as well. Therefore, we are confident that there are no priests in active ministry with known substantiated allegations against them.

Finally, we believe the comprehensive review of our policies, and the independent and non-adversarial reparations process, are models that can and should be duplicated to further address the societal-wide issue of sexual abuse of minors.

We agree with the Attorney General that other youth-serving institutions could consider using a similar public review and reparations program to address this issue.

Catholic Bishops of Colorado
Crime / Investigations / Local News / Pueblo / Pueblo County Crime

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

Comments

3 Comments

  1. These abusers did not serve their followers on behalf of the teachings of Jesus Christ. They acted in a evil manner more like followers of satan, they all need to be weeded out, pay for their wicked actions and their victims receive justice.

    The Catholic church is ideally populated only by those who love Jesus Christ and want to devote their lives to spreading his word, the word of God.

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