Priest who Abused at Least Two Children Later Became State Senator
A former priest who abused at least two children later became a state legislator in Colorado. The fact that a priest with multiple allegations of abusing girls was never reported to secular authorities and was able to ascend to this high position goes to the heart of our concerns that the cover up in Colorado was deep and wide.
John Beno was an elected state senator in addition to being a Catholic priest. As such, he had enormous influence, not just over church doctrine and the keeping of secrets, but within secular society, where he could potentially use his influence to suppress information about himself or other abusers.
We are grateful for the work of current Attorney General Phil Weiser and former Attorney General Cynthia Coffman but clearly much more needs to be done. The report released this week only scratches the surface of abuse in the Catholic Church in Colorado. Critically, the report acknowledges no research into religious order and extern priests, brothers, nuns, or lay employees. It also states that files related to allegations were destroyed. It is but a foregone conclusion that order and extern priests, brothers, nuns, and lay employees also abused, and those victimized were also Coloradans.
Church officials often split hairs over responsibility for order and extern clerics, but since they would have needed permission from one of the three Colorado dioceses in order to work in the state, those priests are the responsibility of local bishops.
We call on all three Colorado bishops to immediately publish lists of all of those men and women against whom allegations where made. We also call on Attorney General Weiser to push for a grand jury that will allow him to undertake a secular review of files related to all those additional categories, and to use all of the tools at his disposal to force a complete reckoning of abuse.
SNAP's research indicates that the abuse in Colorado by priests should be double or triple what has been revealed in this initial report. In Pennsylvania, the priest abuse rate is now nearly 9%, as victims continue coming forward after A.G. Josh Shapiro’s exhaustive Grand Jury report from last fall.Since that report was released, more than 1,800 additional victims have come forward in Pennsylvania. We expect the same would be true in Colorado.
Finally, we call on the state legislature to release any information it has about Fr. Beno and whether any allegations were made while he was in office. If he is accused of abusing while being a state senator, the citizens of Colorado deserve to know what may have been hidden due to his power and influence.
(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)