BETTY ANN BOWSER: As thousands of Catholics began celebrating the high holy week in Denver, they were also greeted with an apology from their archbishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
ARCHBISHOP CHARLES CHAPUT, Archdiocese of Denver: Nothing can diminish the suffering of the victims of sexual misconduct in the Church, or explain away the seriousness of the sin, especially the sin when committed against a child. No apology is adequate, but I do apologize sincerely and humbly on behalf of myself and our priests for any hurt inflicted on our people over the years by clergy or lay employees of the archdiocese.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Since the stories of priests abusing children broke all over the country, the Denver church's leadership has been grappling with how to address the scandal. Although there have been no recent reported incidents in the archdiocese, Bishop Chaput chose to meet the controversy with a written message. In it he said the archdiocese has had a sexual misconduct policy in place since 1991, which all priests and lay workers must review and sign as a condition of employment.
ARCHBISHOP CHARLES CHAPUT: (reading letter) "We live that policy honestly, consistently, and diligently. And because of this, I believe that no priest dangerous to children serves in any ministry in the archdiocese of Denver. We do not and will not assign any known pedophile to any form of ministry. Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and his chief deputy reviewed our policy last week, found it effective, and publicly praised it. We have promptly notified and will continue to notify proper local authorities of any suspected child abuse, and we cooperate with those authorities."
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Bishop Chaput also ordered his four-and-a-half page letter to be read in place of the palm Sunday homily, without further comment, in every parish in the 24 counties covered by the Denver archdiocese. For Father Ken Liuzzi of blessed sacrament parish, reading the bishop's words was an emotional experience.
FATHER KEN LIUZZI: For 31 years it has been my privilege to serve the people of god, to experience your love, and to see your goodness. It has also been my joy to minister alongside so many good priests who have taught me what it means to be unselfish, and a person of character. Support your priests. They need it. Our priests are good and dedicated men who bear the burden of these scandals in the Church in a very personal way.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Father Liuzzi has spent most of his 25 years as a priest working with kids in Catholic schools, and he says the scandals have made his ministry more difficult.
FATHER KEN LIUZZI: It hurts all priests that something like this has happened. You know, that the kids no longer look upon us as someone that they can automatically kind of trust and believe in. So I think, for me in high school ministry, you know, as I bring this into the parish here, that's what hurts me the most is that, as a priest, we have betrayed the trust that people have placed in us and the love and the confidence, you know, that they find and seek in a priest.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Many of Father Liuzzi's parishioners thought the bishop's message was appropriate.
MARTHA BIERY, Parishioner: I thought it was something we all needed to hear. Having been born and raised a Catholic, it's difficult to hear that those things are happening in the Catholic Church. But we are all human, we all make mistakes, and, you know, we do the best we can, as do our priests.
CELSA DOMINGUEZ, Parishioner: It hurts, you know, me personally, it hurts to hear things like that, but it happens. It's not going to change the way I feel about the Catholic Church or about my faith.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Father Liuzzi says he feels a sense of relief that the subject is out in the open, and hopes that now his parish can move on in a more positive direction.