Catholic Church pays $7 million to victims in Colorado of sexual abuse by priests


DENVER (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church has paid out $7.3 million to more than 70 people sexually abused during their youth by priests in Colorado parishes, settling claims dating back over two decades, authorities said on Tuesday.

The settlement, capping a 22-month investigation, was announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in a supplement to a report first released last year when a victims compensation fund was set up.

Over the past year, investigators uncovered 46 new cases and identified nine more priests as offenders not named in the initial report, including the late Monsignor Charles Woodrich, who was known nationally for his outreach to Denver’s homeless community.

In addition to working with the poor, Woodrich, widely known as Father Woody, served as editor of Denver's archdiocesan newspaper and was frequently a public spokesman for the church before his 1991 death. He was accused of sexually assaulting three teenage boys.

In its review of all three Colorado dioceses stretching back to the 1950s, the state attorney general's inquiry documented a total of 212 cases of abuse involving 52 clergymen; 71 victims received cash payments. No credible abuse cases after 1999 were identified.

“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,” Weiser said.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by allegations of sexual abuse since 1992, when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed a decades-long cover-up by church hierarchy of sexual misconduct by its clergy.

The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out an estimated $3.2 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks the issue.

Without naming Woodrich, the Archdiocese of Denver said in a statement that the names of any priest identified in the reports will be removed from "any honorary designation." An archdiocesan homeless shelter had been named after Woodrich.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler)

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