More abuse suits pending in case of former priest
DENVER – Two more people came forward Wednesday with allegations that a former Roman Catholic priest sexually abused children, bringing to seven the number of lawsuits claiming the Denver archdiocese protected him for years.Attorneys for Gary Wolf, 56, of the Denver area and a woman, whose name wasn’t released, said they planned to file lawsuits Wednesday in Denver District Court. Their stories are similar to those of more than a dozen other alleged victims who say Harold Robert White sexually abused them and was moved to other parishes in Colorado to prevent a scandal.”I’m hoping this is going to help me get through what happened 45 years ago,” Wolf, a former altar boy, said during a news conference.Attorneys Tom Roberts of Denver and Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., have filed four lawsuits, including Wolf’s, against the archdiocese. Wolf’s complaint is the first to also name White, who will be added as a plaintiff to the other three.Those lawsuits are seeking unspecified damages.Miami attorney Jeffrey Herman announced he would file a third lawsuit against the archdiocese, this time on behalf of a woman identified as Jane Doe who accused White of sexually abusing her when she was a 7-year-old Catholic school student in Sterling.Like the other two, the lawsuit seeks more than $10 million from the archdiocese, but don’t name White. Herman said he expects to file several more lawsuits involving White.”We take these things extremely seriously. We always have, we do now,” said Fran Maier, chancellor of the Denver archdiocese. “That’s all we can say considering that these things are under litigation.”The archdiocese has declined to say why White was removed from public ministry in 1993. He left the priesthood in 2004.White, who lives in Denver, has an unlisted phone number and couldn’t be located for comment.Wolf said the abuse began when he was 11 or 12 and lasted for about two years. He was a student at a Catholic school in Denver and White was serving his first assignment after his 1960 ordination.Wolf said the nuns and a monsignor didn’t believe his complaints about White.”It’s hard to believe that they would think that a young child at that age would lie about such a thing,” said Wolf, adding that he hopes some of his former classmates come forward, too.Roberts said he believes Wolf’s lawsuit represents some of the oldest allegations against White.”Based upon the reports made, it is clear to us that the archdiocese has had notice of Father White’s proclivities in this regard since 1960,” Roberts said.Contacted at his home in August, White told KCNC-TV in Denver that he speculated that the allegations against him are being fueled by money-hungry lawyers.Roberts said a civil lawsuit is the only recourse when the statute of limitations has run out on an alleged crime and no charges can be filed.”If (Wolf) could go back in time and erase what occurred, he wouldn’t take any amount of money for that,” Roberts said.Over the past several years, dioceses across the country have been rocked by allegations that they ignored complaints about sexual abuse by priests, shuffling the offenders among parishes to hide the problems.The Archdiocese of Portland filed for bankruptcy protection after settling about 130 abuse lawsuits dating from 1950 through 2003 for $53 million. The dioceses of Tucson, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash., also filed bankruptcy claims because of sex abuse allegations.The Boston Archdiocese has agreed to sell some assets to pay for multimillion-dollar settlements.In 1991, the Denver archdiocese became one of the first in the nation to develop a comprehensive abuse policy, which requires all allegations be reported immediately to law enforcement officials.
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