Archdiocese of Denver priest facing allegations of sexually abusing a child; SNAP stands with the victim.
The Archdiocese of Denver recently informed parishioners of St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen that Fr. Michael J. O’Brien has been accused of sexually abusing a child during his time in their parish. Although the priest denies the allegations, they have been reported to law enforcement, and Fr. O'Brien has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of both criminal and Church investigations.
False allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare. We applaud this young victim for coming forward so soon after his abuse and we recognize how difficult it must have been to tell his story. SNAP is committed to standing by all survivors of sexual abuse by trusted authority figures. This victim's bravery will help to keep other children safe.
However, we also know that those who prey on boys and girls rarely have just one victim. We feel that Catholic officials have a moral obligation to do more than just send a notification letter to parishioners in one parish and place Fr. O'Brien on administrative leave. If the Archdiocese was truly sincere about protection, transparency, and cooperation, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila should take the initiative and personally go to every parish where Fr. O'Brien worked -- St. Mary in Aspen, St. Anthony of Padua in Julesburg, St. Peter in Crook, and any others -- and beg anyone who may have experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse by the cleric to report immediately to the police. The Archbishop should also provide a complete work history for Fr. O’Brien, including all of his assignments while he was a seminarian. If the clergyman has ties to another country, Archbishop Aquila should also demand that he surrender his passport.
The Archdiocese of Denver has a short list of accused clergy on their website, which provides very little information on each cleric and only includes archdiocesan priests and one extern priest. It does not include order clergy, brothers, nuns or lay employees, and volunteers who may have been abused. We think in the interest of child protection and transparency the Archdiocese should expand their list to include these additional categories, and also provide photos, complete work histories, and information about when each accusation was received, where the abuse was alleged to have occurred, and what was done in response.
We encourage anyone who has suffered harm by Fr. O'Brien or anyone else in the Archdiocese of Denver to come forward and report to law enforcement immediately. We also urge anyone who has any information or suspicions regarding Fr. O’Brien or others to also contact the Aspen Police Department.
(Please note a correction has been made in our original statement - Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect an erroneous statement by Sgt. Rick Magnuson. An Aspen Police detective was notified by the archdiocese Sept. 20 of the allegations, Magnuson said Thursday.