Colorado Clergy Abuse Suit to Proceed

Associated Press/September 14, 2007

Denver — Eleven lawsuits alleging that two Roman Catholic priests sexually abused children decades ago can proceed after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs did not wait too long to file suit.

In a ruling issued Monday and made public Thursday, the high court rejected the Archdiocese of Denver's appeal without comment. A judge had earlier ruled the statute of limitations did not apply.

The plaintiffs said they can now get statements from church officials and establish a schedule for evidence exchange.

"We certainly see this as a major victory for victims of Colorado," said attorney Jeff Herman, who represents some plaintiffs.

The archdiocese said the Supreme Court's decision will not change its defense against the 40-year-old claims. "The archdiocese continues to believe that lawsuits are not the best way to help all involved," the archdiocese said in an e-mailed statement, which noted church officials have settled similar claims out of court.

The suits accuse the archdiocese of negligence in supervising two priests, concealing abuse allegations lodged against them and failing to protect children.

One of the priests, the Rev. Harold R. White, was removed from public ministry in 1993 and left the priesthood in 2004. He died of a heart attack in November. The other, the Rev. Leonard Abercrombie, died in 1994. Abercrombie was sent to California in 1976 and the Los Angeles Archdiocese has said Abercrombie was accused twice of abusing minors there.

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