Mystery Surrounds Death of Plainville Pastor

Sun Chronicle
January 15, 2010

PLAINVILLE - The pastor of St. Martha's Church died earlier this month in New Hampshire under mysterious circumstances, and parishioners are hoping to learn more about it this week.

The Rev. J. Garret Thomson, 55, was found dead Jan. 6 on the bedroom floor of his home in Jaffrey, N.H.

The New Hampshire medical examiner's office ruled that Thomson died of natural causes and that high blood pressure and diabetes contributed to his death.

The archdiocese informed parishioners that Thomson had been placed on administrative leave prior to his death, but did not specify why. Many in Plainville's only Roman Catholic parish assumed it was for health reasons.

Today, the Boston Globe reported that the administrative leave was due to a sexual abuse allegation. Some parishioners are now wondering if the stress from the allegation contributed to their pastor's death and are hoping to learn more from a question-and-answer session with archdiocesan officials scheduled for Wednesday.

A police report on the priest's death said no visible evidence of suicide was found, the Globe reported. Toxicology results from Thomson's autopsy might not be available for months.

Mark Dunderdale, director of the archdiocese's office of professional standards and oversight, told the Globe the archdiocese routinely waits for weekend Masses after an administrative leave to inform the affected parish about the removal of their pastor.

Dunderdale and Kelly Lynch, an archdiocesan spokeswoman, told the Globe that Thomson had been accused of the sexual abuse of a minor. The alleged abuse occurred about 15 years ago, the church officials said. They declined to say when the charge had surfaced.

Thomson did leave one last message, just before Christmas, on the parish Web site, concerning the benefits of the sacrament of penance.

"The scary part," he wrote, "is in looking at oneself and admitting that I'm not perfect and that I need love to forgive me, to heal me, and to give me the inspiration of hope."

Thomson graduated from Bentley College in Waltham before entering St. John's Seminary, Brighton. He was ordained to the Holy Order of the Priesthood in 1981 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

He served as associate pastor in several parishes before becoming pastor at St. Martha's.


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