Former Greeley priest accused of sexual misconduct in 1970s

The Tribune Greeley, Colorado/May 17, 2010

A priest who was with St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greeley for seven years is being investigated by the Archdiocese of Denver after a claim of sexual misconduct, but the allegation comes from the early 1970s, before he served in Colorado.

The Rev. Dorino De Lazzer was a popular priest at St. Mary's - the reception hall was named for him - during his tenure from 1984-91.

The allegations made against De Lazzer of sexual misconduct with a minor were revealed during Sunday services at St. Mary's, 2222 23rd Ave., in a letter written by Archbishop Charles Chaput.

The archdiocese is keeping the identity of the person who filed a complaint a secret, only revealing that she was a female and a minor, because she wanted full anonymity and was nervous about making the allegations, said Fran Maier, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver.

The archdiocese is so protective of her identity that it won't even reveal the state where the alleged misconduct took place and would only say it happened in the early 1970s.

Chaput placed De Lazzer on administrative leave until the investigation is completed. De Lazzer, who retired from active ministry in 2005, could be reinstated if he is cleared, Maier said.

Chaput said in a statement that he received the complaint against De Lazzer on May 7. Chaput contacted law enforcement in that state, placed De Lazzer on leave and began his investigation a day later. Chaput emphasized in the statement that this was the first allegation made against De Lazzer and that De Lazzer was presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Maier said the church waited to release the news until Sunday because the parishes where he served had the right to hear it first.

Pope Benedict XVI's recent comments about sexual abuse in the church, something that drew 150,000 people to fill St. Peter's Square on Sunday, had nothing to do with the church's quick action on the allegation, Maier said.

"This is a policy we've had in place for years," he said.

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