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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release

Archbishop attacks rape victim with legal tactics

Catholic officials transfers accused to Colorado Springs

SNAP wants an apology for Chaput’s effort to get thousands from victim

“It’s just mean-spirited un-Christian intimidation,” self help group argues

Announces it will hold special support group meeting in Feb. for victimized adults

WHAT: Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conferences, clergy sex abuse victims will
— blast Denver’s Catholic archbishop for ‘secrecy and ruthlessness’ in an alleged rape case, and
— demand that he apologize for and explain his move to get thousands of dollars from the alleged rape victim.

They will also
— urge Catholic officials—here and in Colorado Springs—to warn families about him,
— prod two bishops to reach out to others who may have been hurt by the lay minister, and
— urge anyone who saw, suspected or suffered his crimes to get help and call the police.
— announce a special, confidential, self-help group in February for men and women who were victimized as adults by church employees and volunteers

WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Outside the Colorado Catholic Conference HQ, 1535 Logan St.(corner of E. Colfax Ave.) in Denver

WHY: According to a lengthy investigative report published Monday, in 2008, Katia Birge was sexually attacked by Juan Carlos Hernandez, a Mexican Catholic lay minister, who led an archdiocesan ministry called Christo Y Yo.

It took three months for Birge to get an appointment with Hernandez’ supervisor, Msgr. Jorge de los Santos, and three more to finally get word from Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput that Hernandez was supposedly relieved of his duties. She learned later, however, that Hernandez was sent to head the same program in the Colorado Springs diocese.

Hernandez is described as “a dynamic and pious man in his mid-30s who charmed older women in the parish and encouraged young adults and young married couples to come to him for counseling and advice.” Birge reportedly went to him Hernandez for spiritual guidance (a scenario in which SNAP says many vulnerable adult Catholics wind up being victimized).

Birge says a Denver church official admitted that the archdiocese does not do background checks on volunteers (though Chaput’s spokesperson claims otherwise).

The group is also upset that Chaput “has hidden behind a peculiarity in Colorado law that holds that ‘sexual misconduct’ is outside the scope of a minister’s duties and therefore not something the Catholic Church can be liable for.” SNAP believes it’s improper and cold-hearted for a spiritual figure to exploit legal technicalities like this.

SNAP leaders have talked at length with Birge and find her very credible for several reasons (including the fact that she patiently and repeatedly tried to talk with church officials, got a temporary protective order against Hernandez and filed a police report, knowing it’s a crime to falsely report an alleged crime). She filed a still-pending civil suit but the archdiocese was removed from the case and then sought thousands of dollars in legal fees from Birge. SNAP believes that it’s appropriate for bishops to try to recover legal costs only if they are convinced someone is trying to ‘scam’ them. The group wants Chaput to publicly apologize for the “intimidating move.”

The group wants both the Denver and Colorado Springs prelates to urge anyone who may have suspicions or knowledge of Hernandez’s crimes to come forward and contact police.

According to the article, “Birge and her attorney identified a prior victim, who anonymously gave a statement for the plaintiffs, alleging that Hernandez attempted to rape her under very similar circumstances several years earlier.”

At the time of the assault, she was a devout, 25 year old member of Denver’s St. Cajetan Parish. She has since moved to Mexico.

CONTACT - Jeb Barrett 720 222 2412, [email protected]; David Clohessy 314 566 9790, [email protected]; Barbara Dorris 314 503 0003, [email protected]

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests