Two Catholic priests who worked in Durango and Ignacio had histories of sexual abuse involving young boys that ran deeper than previously publicly known, according to a report released Wednesday that details decades of abuse by 43 Roman Catholic priests in Colorado.
The 263-page report released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office found at least 166 children were abused by priests during the last 70 years across the state.
One priest, the Rev. William “Bill” Groves, worked in Durango and Ignacio in the 1980s when he abused boys. A second priest, identified only as Father H, worked as a chaplain at Mercy Regional Medical Center and admitted to abusing boys in the 1960s in Wichita, Kansas, the report said.
Groves assaulted at least two boys while working in La Plata County.
The report, “Roman Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children in Colorado from 1950 to 2019,” was compiled by an independent team led by former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer and relied on interviews, follow-up investigation and files kept by the three dioceses in the state.
Bishop of Pueblo Stephen Berg said in an open letter Wednesday that the report is part of an effort to be transparent about how the church in Colorado has responded to historical substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse.
“It is my sincere and prayerful hope that this report provides some small measure of justice and healing,” he wrote.
A spokeswoman for the diocese referred The Durango Herald to the bishop’s letter when asked for further comment.
The report found no working priests currently working in Colorado who have been credibly accused of abusing children. But it also found that church records are not reliable proof of the absence of abuse.
Jeb Barrett with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Denver said there are likely more victims who have not come forward.
“We know the church has not been in the habit of reporting criminal activity of their clergy,” he told the Herald.
Lawsuits settled on behalf of priestFormer Ignacio priest Groves pleaded guilty in 1990 to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1989, a case that was covered at the time by the Herald. He was sentenced to four years’ probation and entered a sex-offender treatment program. He was also removed from the church and sent to long-term rehabilitation, the report said.
In 2002, Groves was interviewed by the Herald about abusing the boy.
“My progressive alcoholism had completely obliterated my decision-making ability,” he said at the time.
The report released Wednesday details allegations involving two other victims.
In one of the cases, Groves sexually abused a boy over the course of eight years, from 1982 to 1989. The incidents were first reported in 2004. According to the report, he abused the boy about 10 times a year, which included fondling, masturbating, oral sex and rape, according to the report. The boy was 8 to 15 years old during the abuse.
During that time, Groves worked in Walsenburg, Pueblo, Durango and Ignacio in pastoral roles. While working in Durango, he befriended minority teens and opened a shelter for them, according to Herald archives.
There is no evidence the Pueblo Diocese reported it to law enforcement, the report said. By 2004, Groves had already been removed from the church. In 2010, the church settled a lawsuit brought by the victim.
While Groves served as administrator at St. Ignatius, he abused a second boy over the course of a year in 1987 and 1988, according to the report. He is accused of rape, oral sex and inappropriately touching the boy, according to the report. He also provided alcohol and marijuana to the boy. The abuse was reported in 2009. The church later settled a lawsuit brought by the victim, the report said.
Former Mercy chaplain admitted to abuseA former chaplain at Mercy Regional Medical Center, referred to in the report only as Father H, admitted to abusing three boys in the 1960s in Wichita. The chaplain admitted to fondling a victim who was 10 to 13 years old at the time of the abuse. He also admitted to fondling two other victims, forcing oral sex on them, among other acts.
After the allegations came to light, the church restored the priest’s ability to minister in Utah and Colorado in the late 1990s. His ability to minister was revoked again in 2002. The man died in 2003.
The priest’s history aligns with that of Robert Blanpied, who served in Mercy’s pastoral care department for 14 years and retired in 1993, according to Herald archives. He was sued in 1995 by a victim, but the case was dismissed because it had exceeded the statute of limitations.
According to the archives, Blanpied admitted in court documents to abusing the boy.
Protecting childrenThe report, which was paid for by private donors and the three dioceses in Colorado, details the Pueblo Diocese’s process for preventing, reporting and investigating sexual abuse and recommends these changes:
Establish an online form to report abuse.Continue to encourage parishioners to report allegations directly to law enforcement.Hire qualified, independent investigative teams to look into allegations of sexual abuse.Establish an independent office to review allegations. Improve church culture to ensure reports of abuse are rewarded and not punished.Restrict priests’ access to children if there is a risk to them. Improve record-keeping to ensure allegations are accounted for and monitored.The Catholic church said Wednesday it expects more victims of abuse will come forward as a result of the report detailing decades abuse. The diocese has set up a website with additional information about the investigation.“As a result of the attorney general and the church’s shared efforts to have this issue investigated and a report published,” Bishop Berg wrote in his open letter Wednesday, “survivors have come forward for the first time, and more are likely to come forward in the days ahead.”firstname.lastname@example.org