Pueblo bishop says no cover-up in how Diocese handled sex abuse allegations

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Bishop Stephen Berg says there was no cover-up in how the Diocese of Pueblo handled sexual abuse allegations that surfaced in February.

The allegations were made public in a report released by the Colorado Attorney General's Office on Tuesday.

The report, written by Former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, said a former Sacred Heart Orphan came forward saying he was sexually abused in 1984 by Monsignor Marvin Kapushion. Kapushion was alive when the allegations were reported, but police didn't receive a report from the Pueblo Diocese until two weeks after the former clergy member died in April.

"As for my personal involvement, I regret that I am being lifted up in this way as an example of the way the church has misbehaved in the past," Berg said.

On Thursday, Berg responded to calls for his removal by the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests.

"I would just say that we responded to a very formalized, solid and quite an amazing and independent process for people to come forward and we followed that process faithfully."

Berg said the victim didn't come directly to the Pueblo Diocese but instead went to Colorado's Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP). The IRRP is a program launched in Colorado by the Roman Catholic Church in 2019.

Here's a timeline of how the allegations were handled by the Pueblo Diocese, according to Berg:

February 28: Pueblo Diocese receives an email from IRRP asking if they would accept an abuse claim after a deadline months before. The Pueblo Diocese says it received limited information and no description of the conduct the victim accused Kapushion of.

March 11: Pueblo Diocese says it receives a form detailing the allegation against Kapushion. Kapushion was apparently ill and was being moved to a memory unit at a nursing home.

April 7: Kapushion dies.

April 20: The Diocese reports the allegations against Kapushion to law enforcement.

June 15: Diocese receives a claim from with accusation against Msgr. Kapushion that provides additional detail.

June 22: The diocese hired a private investigator to look into the allegations.

June 24: The Diocese sends a supplemental notice to law enforcement.

According to Berg, the IRRP process includes advising victims to report sexual abuse claims to police, which he said didn't happen in this case. He said his staff didn't want to interfere with the IRRP process.

“If we interfered it might appear that we were trying to move the results of either the investigations or the reparations program one way or the other," Berg said.  

The Diocese of Pueblo said the IRRP denied the victim's claim in late September. In June, the church's independent investigator didn't interview the victim because an attorney was representing him. The investigator did not substantiate the claims -- but the report released by the AG said that investigation was "substantially incomplete."

"In regards to my personal covering-up something, this was not possible. We were all involved in this together in the one-hand. And the second, there was really nothing at any time to report," Berg said.