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June 20, 2023

Archdiocese of Denver

1300 S. Steele St.

Denver, CO 80210


For Immediate Release


Colorado Supreme Court finds the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act unconstitutional

DENVER – The Archdiocese of Denver supports the unanimous ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that the retroactive portion of the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act (CSAAA) violates the constitutional prohibition on retrospective legislation. Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Denver, public schools, and other organizations representing youth programs pointed to specific language in the Colorado State Constitution prohibiting any law “retrospective in its operation,” such as the CSAAA. The Colorado Supreme Court explained, “The prohibition on retrospective legislation prevents the legislature from changing the rules after the fact because to do so would be unjust.” The Court agreed that the constitutional prohibition would lose all meaning if retrospective laws could be avoided based on public policy.

CSAAA created a three-year window in 2022 where survivors of child sex abuse dating back to the 1960s could sue an abuser or an organization that knew or should have known of a risk of sexual misconduct. The Archdiocese strongly believes litigation is never the means to true healing. It is adversarial and ultimately does more harm than good.

The Archdiocese has always cared for the healing of sexual assault victims. Under the leadership of Archbishop Charles Chaput (1997-2011), the Archdiocese implemented the 2002 Dallas Charter, which included a strict “zero-tolerance policy” for any substantiated allegation. And in 2006, Archbishop Chaput opened one of the nation’s first independent reparations programs to provide resources and healing to survivors of historical sexual abuse through a compassionate and non-adversarial independent Outreach Panel. Over the next few years, roughly 60 cases were settled, with the Church providing nearly $10 million in compensation to the survivors. In 2008, the Denver Post described the process as an “honorable way to address abuse” and noted the “strong steps” taken by Archbishops Stafford and Chaput to address this issue.

In February 2019, the three Colorado dioceses announced a voluntary joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General for a  Special Master to conduct an independent review of the history of sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests. The three Colorado dioceses also created and funded an Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP). The Archdiocese resolved over 55 claims and paid over $6 million in reparations during the 2019-2020 program.

Former U.S. Senator Hank Brown was Chairman of the Oversight Committee. At its conclusion, he said, “The IRRP was an important step in the Colorado Dioceses’ ongoing work to assist survivors with the process of healing. Employing a non-adversarial and survivor-centered process, the IRRP allowed survivors to be heard, have their claims reviewed by a neutral and independent third party, and receive acknowledgment and financial assistance… It is the IOC’s sincere hope that the IRRP assisted in the healing process for survivors of abuse and the community at large.”

While that program is now closed, the Archdiocese remains committed to the continued healing of survivors of child sexual assault. Let us stay vigilant in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts and keep the most vulnerable members of our community – children, youth, and at-risk adults – safe from harm.