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Katia Birge's case of alleged rape by a Catholic lay minister scheduled to go to trial in March

Last week, we wrote about the case of Katia Birge, who claims to have been raped by a Denver Catholic lay minister in 2008. Today, her father, attorney Tom Birge, called to dispute a statement made by the Archdiocese of Denver spokeswoman -- and to clarify other points.

For instance, he says the case against the lay minister wasn't dropped. Instead, it will go to trial next month.

Birge claims she was raped by Juan Carlos Hernandez, a man in his thirties who ran a Catholic young adult group called Christo Y Yo, according to an article by journalist Kathryn Joyce called "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church: When Adults are Victims." When Birge, who was 25 at the time, reported the incident to Catholic officials, she says they weren't very responsive.

So she took matters into her own hands, winning a permanent restraining order against Hernandez in June 2010 that requires him to stay away from her for two years, says Tom Birge. She also filed a civil lawsuit against Hernandez, as well as against the Denver archdiocese for failing to supervise him or conduct a background check.

Here's where things get a bit complicated. Birge's case against the archdiocese is now over; she and the archdiocese reached a settlement in December. But her case against Hernandez continues. According to her father, it's scheduled to go to trial in March in Denver District Court.

And Tom Birge says the archdiocese is not being truthful about the settlement agreement. In a statement e-mailed to Westword last week, archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette De Melo said, "The court awarded the Archdiocese tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs against Ms. Birge. The Archdiocese chose not to collect the awarded fees."

That's not true, Tom Birge says. While it's true that the archdiocese asked the court to award it legal fees, he says, the court never agreed. "As part of the settlement, Katia gave up her right to appeal and the church gave up its right to get attorney's fees awarded," he explained. "They filed a motion seeking attorney's fees but it wasn't ruled on."

We've asked De Melo if Birge is correct. We'll update this blog post when we hear back.

More from our News archive: "Our Lady of Guadalupe Church members fight to restore mural of Mexican patron saint."


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