Denver Archdiocese vocations director speaks on priest hiring process ahead of new abuse report

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DENVER — Rev. Ryan O’Neill, vocations director for the Archdiocese of Denver, is responsible for every new priest that joins the seminary.

“That’s something I definitely take seriously,” O’Neill said.

Ahead of a new Colorado Catholic Church report set to be released by the Attorney General’s Office in the new few weeks, O’Neill sat down with FOX31 to discuss how the archdiocese works to keep abusers out of the church.

“Are you confident that the young men studying to be priests in this seminary are good guys?” FOX31 reporter Joe St. George asked.

“I am,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the seminary, where the majority of Colorado priests used to study, was shut down in the 1990s.

“The men that were coming out of the seminary in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s — they weren’t necessarily being formed well and they had a lot of issues around boundaries and sexuality,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill said the seminary has reopened but under stricter leadership and a more thorough vetting process.

“Anywhere between six months to a year that I get to know a man before I even offer him an application,” O’Neill said.

“You just can’t walk in the door and fill out an application?” St. George asked.

“No, you can’t,” O’Neill said.

He added that the application is 20 pages long and requires a 10-age autobiography. Applicants also undergo psychological evaluations.

O’Neill said he asks applicants about pornography use and their sexual orientation.

Additionally, O’Neill said if the archdiocese suspects anything illegal, they are required to report it to the state of Colorado.

O’Neill said while recent abuse scandals around the country have hurt priest recruitment, he does not believe the latest Colorado report will result in another major scandal for Catholics.

“I’m not worried about it because I believe a lot that is going to come out — we already know about as a church,” O’Neill said.

RELATED: Until the end of November, Coloradans abused by priests have the opportunity to file a claim with the Catholic Church and receive a settlement.  

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