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Colorado AG, bishops announce joint-initiatives to help Catholic church abuse survivors

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser stood with the bishops of the three Colorado dioceses to announce state and church initiatives meant to support abuse survivors within the Catholic Church.
Credit: 9NEWS
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announces an agreement to review clergy child sex abuse during a Feb. 19, 2019, press conference.

DENVER — Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and the bishops from the three dioceses in the state announced Monday joint initiatives meant to offer support to any victims of child sex abuse by Catholic priests.

Weiser also announced an independent review led by former Colorado U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer, would look at all the records and policies of the three dioceses about the sexual abuse of minors and draft a public report. 

"I want to be clear, the Catholic Church has no authority or oversight of the process," said Weiser. "He [Bob Troyer] is going to take this on and investigate every lead to provide true transparency to what happened and were there any efforts to cover it up?" 

In addition, the three dioceses said they would fund an independent, voluntary program that would compensate victims of abuse, regardless of when that abuse occurred. 

A support service will also be created to assist victims and survivors with the reparations program and connect them with resources for future care.

Weiser took turns at the podium with Archbishop Samuel Aquila to announce the initiatives. The attorney general explained that referrals to law enforcement will be made whenever appropriate during the review process. 

"I was thrilled by what I heard today because this is something I've been working on since 2006," said Jeb Barrett, a sexual abuse survivor and member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. 

Barrett said his partner, Norman Bebe, killed himself at age 28 after years of being molested by a Montana priest. 

It wasn't until Barrett was 63 that he started to comprehend the abuse he faced at the hands of a priest when he was a teen. 

"We need to know who these predators are -- who these abusers are so we can protect our children and grand children," he said.

Weiser said a list of any priests found to have abused children will be made publicly available. According to a release, that report is expected to be released in the fall and will also include when the alleged abuse occurred and a review of each diocese's response to these allegations. 

The Colorado announcement comes after a Pennsylvania report from a grand jury showed more than 300 priests there abused 1,000 children over the course of 70 years. 

Weiser says unlike Pennsylvania, he does not have the power to bring the case to a grand jury, so the review will not be a criminal investigation. 

RELATED: Grand jury: More than 300 'predator priests' in Pennsylvania protected by Catholic Church

In response to the sex abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic church for years, Pope Francis called a summit to be held this week on rampant abuse within the church.

RELATED: Pope Francis demands priestly sex abusers to turn themselves in

RELATED: Pope to meet US bishops Thursday over abuse scandal

RELATED: Pope on sex abuse: 'We showed no care for the little ones'

At a press conference Monday, organizers called the summit a "turning point" in the church's approach to clergy sex abuse. The Catholic Church has long been criticized for its failure to hold bishops accountable when they covered up for priests who raped and molested children. 

RELATED: Pope: Church must reflect on what allowed abuse

RELATED: Pope sees sex scandal as greatest threat to church

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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