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Nine Colorado-based Capuchin Catholic friars with credible sex assault allegations identified

Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad audit released
Posted: 1:41 PM, Mar 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-28 20:28:11-04
The Papal Conclave Day One

DENVER – The Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad, an order of the Catholic Church based in Denver, on Thursday released an audit report that identifies 13 current or former friars – nine of whom worked in Colorado – who were found to have credible allegations of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults levied against them.

The province said in a news release that two of the friars are dead, five have left the order and the remaining six are not active ministers in the church.

The St. Conrad province was established in 1977 and includes Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, the Dioceses of Belleville, Peoria and Springfield (Illinois), and two houses in San Antonio, Texas in its territory.

Provincial Minister Father Christopher Popravak and the provincial council commissioned the audit of the province’s personnel files and other materials last year. A three-person team that included a director of pastoral care for one of the church’s provinces, a clinical psychologist with experience in church-based abuse and a forensic psychologist with 25 years of experience working with people who have committed sex crimes led the audit.

The audit also looked at the province’s policies and procedures for creating safe environments for parishioners and its plans for dealing with members accused of abuse, the province said in its audit. The Denver Post first reported news of the audit Thursday.

The province said the purpose of the audit was to identify members engaged in sexual abuse and to measure how successful measures taken by the province have been in addressing the incidents.

The review of personnel files also included any files contained at the Archdiocese of Denver relating to the province.

The audit looked at “credible” accusations of abuse against minors or vulnerable adults – people advanced in age or with mental or physical disabilities – made against friars. Allegations were deemed credible when an administrative investigation “found it more likely than not that the alleged abuse had occurred” or if a friar admitted to the abuse.

“The absence of evidence in a sexual abuse claim does not mean that abuse did not occur,” the audit states. “It may mean that there was lack of evidence or inadequate investigation or documentation. If a claim was not investigated, because of a statute of limitations or otherwise, it does not mean that there was no abuse. It is equally important to note that a reference to or allegation of sexual abuse does not necessarily mean that sexual abuse occurred.”

The audit states that 226 personnel files were reviewed for the report.

There were allegations levied against seven current, professed members of the province, six of which were deemed credible. One of the credible allegations involved a vulnerable adult and the other five involved minors.

There were also four allegations made against deceased members of the province, two of which were deemed credible.

Overall, accusations were made against 17 current or former members, 13 of whom were found to have allegedly committed abuse deemed to be credible in the audit.

The Colorado locations where credible abuse allegedly occurred include Denver, Colorado Springs and Thornton. (Scroll to the bottom of this story for the names of the friars involved and the locations at which they worked.)

The auditors also reviewed the province’s safety plans and said they “found a positive progression and evolution in the documentation of reporting historic allegations to civil authorities.” The report says that steps made since 2013 have led to “a marked increase in specific references to safe environment practices and policies, improved documentation regarding allegations of those who committed sexual offenses, and sharing information with the Province’s leadership team.”

The auditors released a list of 10 recommendations stemming from the report, including that any previously unreported allegations be sent to the local district attorney.

Many of the other recommendations include adhering to and improving their safety policies and practices, as well as the implementation of a safe environment coordinator position.

Fr. Popravak issued a news release accompanying the audit that says the province is “the first step in a new age of transparency.”

“As friars and followers of St. Francis of Assisi, our vocation is to serve as lesser brothers. Therefore, the abuse of a minor by someone in such a sacred position of trust is all the more egregious. I have personally met with numerous victims and can attest to the devastation wreaked upon their lives and those of their families. Though the words may ring hollow as many other Church leaders are voicing similar sentiments, I can only say that I am sorry from the depths of my heart. I have asked the friars of our Province to commit to serious penance and reparation on behalf of the misdeeds of our brothers and for the healing of victims. The results of the audit we are releasing today is only the first step in a new age of transparency. We are striving to be vigilant and have taken serious steps in the last fifteen years to ensure the careful and diligent screening of candidates to our way of life. We must persevere in our efforts to ensure that such a scandalous series of violations never occurs again.”

He also wrote a letter about the audit and report, and about sexual abuse in the church in general, and the province’s website has a full webpage dedicated to the audit and report.

Father Joseph Elder, a spokesperson for the province, said in an interview later Thursday that the church was doing its best to make sure friars didn't repeat their abuse in the future.

"We're doing everything possible on our part to make sure it doesn't happen again, but again, no one can predict the future," Elder said. "But we are doing everything we can to make certain that no one is ever hurt again."

When he was asked if the church's celibacy pledge had anything to do with the sexual abuse within the church, Elder said he didn't believe that was the case.

"I don't think the problem is celibacy," Elder said. "I think the problem is people who weren't fully committed to living out celibacy and for that reason ended up hurting people."

The province is asking anyone who has been abused by a Capuchin member to contact authorities and the province’s Safe Environment Coordinator, Jason Faris, at 303-477-5436 or Jason.faris@capuchins.org.

Archdiocese of Denver spokesman Mark Haas said matters related to the province were handled by the province itself.

“The Capuchin Province of St. Conrad serves within the Archdiocese of Denver with the permission of the Archbishop of Denver, but all matters relating to its friars are handled by the province," Haas said. "Any criminal allegation reported to the archdiocese involving a member of a religious order would be immediately reported to local authorities and the religious order.”

The friars with credible allegations levied against them and the places in which they worked are listed below.

One credible allegation against a minor

Gregory Beyer
Born: 1935
Died: 2010
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1970s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
Sacred Heart Friary, Atwood, KS
St. Fidelis Friary, Lawrence, KS
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
Annunciation Friary, Denver, CO
Solanus Casey Friary, Colorado Springs, CO

David Jones
Born: 1962
Dismissed from order: 1987
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1986
Pastoral Assignments:
None

Benignus Scarry
Born: 1944
Left order: 2016
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1980s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
St. Crispin Friary, St. Louis, MO
St. Conrad Friary, Lawrence, KS
San Damiano Friary, Denver, CO
San Antonio Friary, Denver, CO
St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Denver, CO
Our Lady of Angels Friary, Colorado Springs, CO

Felix Shinsky
Born: 1941
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1977
Pastoral assignments:
St. Mary Friary, Herman, PA
St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, KS
St. Conrad Friary, Annapolis, MD
Mother of Divine Shepherd Friary, Mendi, Papua New Guinea
Queen of the Friars Minor Friary, Kagua, Papua New Guinea
St. Fidelis Friary, Nipa, Papua New Guinea
Santa Clara Friary, Denver, CO
St. Elizabeth Friary, Denver, CO
St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Denver, CO

Charles Wolfe
Born: 1949
Dismissed from order: 1987
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1976
Pastoral assignments:
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
Good Shepherd Friary, Hays, KS
Holy Cross Friary, Thornton, CO

More than one credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor

Bennett Colucci
Born: 1930
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1970s – 1980s
Fraternidad San Conrado, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Fraternidad San Miguel, Utuado, Puerto Rico
Fraternidad Santa Cruz, Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
Fraternidad San Joaquin, Adjuntas, Puerto Rico
Fraternidad Santa Maria de los Angeles, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
Annunciation Friary, Denver, CO
Alverno Friary, Denver, CO
Holy Cross Friary, Thornton, CO
Santa Clara Friary, Denver, CO
St. Jospeh Friary, Hays, KS
St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, KS

Ron Gilardi
Born: 1947
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1990s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, KS

David Gottschalk
Born: 1943
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1970s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, KS
St. Francis Friary, Pittsburgh, PA
St. Francis Friary, Washington, D.C.
Good Shepherd Friary, Shawnee, KS
St. John Friary, Lawrence, KS
St. Conrad Friary, Allison Park, PA
St. Francis Friary, Denver, CO
Our Lady of Angels Friary, Colorado Springs, CO

Julian Haas
Born: 1938
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1970s – 1980s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Mary Friary, Herman, PA
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
St. Lawrence of Brindisi Friary, Rome, Italy
Annunciation Friary, Denver, CO
Capuchin Historical Institute Friary, Rome, Italy
St. Crispin Friary, St. Louis, MO
St. Patrick Friary, St. Louis, MO
Solanus Casey Friary, Colorado Springs, CO
General Curia Friary, Rome, Italy
St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Denver, CO
Our Lady of Angels Friary, Colorado Springs, CO

Finian Meis
Born: 1936
Left order in 1992, deceased
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1960s – 1970s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Fidelils Friary, Victoria, KS
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
Good Shepherd Friary, Shawnee, KS
St. Conrad Friary, Kansas City, MO

Thaddeus Posey
Born: 1944
Died: 2013
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1980s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Francis Friary, Washington, D.C.
Annunciation Friary, Denver, CO
Alverno Friary, Denver, CO
St. Conrad Friary, Kansas City, MO
St. Patrick Friary, St. Louis, MO
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN
St. Fidelis Friary, Victoria, KS

Daniel Schartz
Born: 1942
Left order in 1980
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 1970s
Pastoral assignments:
St. Bonaventure Friary, Hays, KS
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS

More than one credible allegation of sexual abuse of vulnerable adult

Matthew Gross
Born: 1935
Removed from ministry/under supervision
Estimated timeframe of abuse: 2000s – 2010s
Pastoral assignments:
Our Lady of the Angels Friary, Erave, Papua New Guinea
St. Congrad Friary, Burani, PNG
St. Francis Friary, Tari, PNG
Mary Queen of the Friars Minor Friary, Kagua, PNG
St. Clare Friary, Ialibu, PNG
Mother of Divine Shepherd Friary, Mendi, PNG
St. Joseph Friary, Hays, KS
Annunciation Friary, Denver, CO
Solanus Casey Friary, Colorado Springs, CO
St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Denver, CO
Our Lady of Angels Friary, Colorado Springs, CO