Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila apologized Wednesday for sexual abuse of children in the Colorado Catholic Church, and then he went on the defensive, saying “perpetrators infect every organization,” not just the church.
“We must learn from the suffering of the victims and never assume that we could not face another perpetrator in our midst,” said Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in a video statement after the release of a partial investigation of sexual abuse in portions of Colorado’s Catholic Church. “Just in the last few years, it has become even more apparent that perpetrators infect every organization: the Boy Scouts, public schools, the Olympics, news organizations, colleges. These abuses can manifest in every part of our lives if we are not alert and responsive.”
Does Aquila think the church is being scapegoated?
The archdiocese’s office didn’t return an email seeking an answer to that question, but abuse survivors and advocates say the answer is a resounding no.
“On the one hand, we do know that child sexual abuse happens in every community and every organization. So that’s true,” said Jenny Stith, Director of the WINGS Foundation, which helps adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
“But I think he may have been using that tactic to minimize the fact that the Catholic Church has such a history with this.”
“In general, the response to the abuse within those institutions has been similar and self-protective,” added Stith. “And if there are any similarities, those are the ones that should should be highlighted.”
Aquila’s mention of news organizations could have been a reference to harassment and abuse that was publicized with the emergence of the #MeTo movement and mostly involved adults.
The investigation into abuse in the Catholic Church in Colorado, which turned up 166 incidents since 1950 involving 43 priests, focused narrowly on child sex abuse–and did not address any problems or incidents involving adults.
Denver KHOW radio host Dan Caplis, who doesn’t conceal his social conservativism, views sex assault in the public schools as “similar to what’s occurred in the church.”
Efforts to find out if Caplis thinks Catholics have been scapegoated were unsuccessful.
Regardless, Aquila has promised to stop abuse in the church.
“I want to remind you that a year ago, as your archbishop, I made a series of public promises to ensure the sins of the past are not repeated,” said Aquila in the video released Wednesday. “Today I stand by those promises and reassert my promises. …In these times we are called to be holy and to keep our eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus Christ for he alone is the one who can bring healing and redemption to each one of us personally and to the church.”