SNAP Demands Discipline for Pueblo Bishop Following Revelations in Colorado’s Updated Special Master Report
According to an investigation undertaken by Colorado’s attorney general, the Catholic Diocese of Pueblo was aware of an allegation of sexual abuse against one of its monsignors and yet chose not to report it to police until two weeks after the monsignor died. To us, this appears to be a brazen attempt to avoid scandal and punishment and we call on Pope Francis to intervene in this situation and immediately remove the prelate who allowed this to happen.
Monsignor Marvin Kapushion is reported to have abused a minor while the victim was living at Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo in 1984. That assault was reported to the Diocese of Pueblo in February of this year. Yet two months went by before Bishop Stephen Berg or his staff deigned to report the crime to law enforcement. Even more flagrant is the fact that they waited until after Msgr. Kapushion died before going to the police.
It is impossible for us to understand this delay, especially in the face of all the scandal that the Catholic Church has faced over the past several decades. Reporting crimes to police is not a difficult concept to grasp or some new mode of behavior. Church officials themselves acknowledged their duty to report crimes to police in Article 4 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document adopted nearly two decades ago.
We think that this situation is a no-brainer. Early last year, Pope Francis pledged an “all-out battle” against clergy abuse. The situation in Pueblo is now the latest skirmish in that battle. Pope Francis and the Metropolitan for the Diocese of Pueblo must step in, publicly denounce this decision by Catholic officials in that diocese, and discipline, to whatever extent possible, those involved in this attempted cover-up.
As Metropolitan, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the Archdiocese of Denver can and should immediately bar Bishop Berg from public ministry. This is an easy step and one that other bishops have taken against wrongdoing prelates in the past. For examples look to how Archbishop Jose Gomez barred Cardinal Roger Mahony from public ministry in Los Angeles, or how Bishop Paul Etienne restricted the ministry of Bishop Joseph Hart after a requested Vatican investigation went nowhere. This is a public condemnation that cannot be ignored and it is an example of the kind of “fraternal correction” that bishops have long promised will keep their brethren in line.
While these steps are being taken in the U.S., Pope Francis should use his powers in Rome to launch an investigation into the conduct of Bishop Berg, just as he did with Bishop Richard Malone in Buffalo. Just as in Buffalo, this appears to have been a clear attempt to keep parishioners, parents, and the public from knowing the full extent of clergy abuse within diocesan borders. Pope Francis must come down forcefully if people are to believe that his “all-out battle” is not simply more smoke and mirrors.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)