|Springs Church: Priest Accused of Abuse Worked in Parish
By Mark Barna
April 24, 2010
A Denver priest accused of molesting a boy in the early 1970s was a pastor during that period at Divine Redeemer Church in Colorado Springs, the Rev. Jim Klein announced to his parish Saturday.
Reading from a statement from Michael Sheridan, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Klein said the abuse of which the Rev. Mel Thompson is accused did not take place at Divine Redeemer, though he encouraged anyone with abuse allegations to contact the diocese.
The parish appeared stunned by the announcement and fell silent.
“Gosh, you could hear a pin drop here,” Klein said.
After the announcement, Klein devoted his sermon to addressing the pedophilia scandal that has embroiled the Roman Catholic Church in what some observers call the greatest crises within the faith since the Reformation.
“I am angry that priests have violated that sacred trust,” a solemn Klein told about 500 congregants.
Since 2002, when molestation allegations were made against priests within the Archdiocese of Boston, thousands of U.S. abuse victims have come forward. In recent weeks, the Catholic Church has faced numerous sex abuse allegations in Europe, Latin America and the U.S. This month, accusations against several Denver priests, including Thompson, surfaced, bringing the number of cases within the Denver Archdiocese to nearly 50 since 2005.
The announcement at Divine Redeemer, which has a weekly attendance of about 1,700 and operates a large elementary and middle school on its campus, is standard procedure in U.S. parishes where an accused priest once served.
The practice is part of the 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the wake of the Boston scandal. The charter lays out procedures for protecting children from sexual predators and being open with parishioners about sex abuse cases.
Most observers say the charter, which is highlighted by zero tolerance toward abusive priests and mandatory reporting of claims to police, has been effective in reducing activity by sexual predators. Since 2003, allegations of U.S. clerical abuse have dropped below 50 each year, according to a Georgetown University study, and there were only six credible abuse cases alleged in 2009.
Among the 195 U.S. dioceses, the Colorado Springs diocese, formed in 1984, has an exceptionally low number of abuse cases.
The diocese has had only two credible cases alleged to have occurred within the period since its founding, diocese records show. In 1992, the Rev. Richard Chung committed suicide as authorities closed in over a report he molested a boy at St. Mary’s High School. In 2002, the Rev. Thomas Kloppenborg lost his collar when in his personnel file it was discovered that he’d self-reported his sexual relationship with an underage teen when he was in seminary in the 1970s.
“The record shows we have been pretty effective in keeping our kids from harm,” said Ed Gaffney, diocese director of the office of mission effectiveness.
Key to the success, diocese officials say, besides the implementation of the charter and other safeguards, is the relatively small size of the diocese, which oversees 800 employees, including about 50 priests at 44 parishes and missionaries.
The modest size has enabled diocese leaders to interact with employees closely and catch potential problems early, said Doug Flynn, diocese general counsel and chief of staff.
Jeb Barrett, leader of the Denver chapter of the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, acknowledged that the Springs diocese has a good record safeguarding children. But he also called for greater transparency.
“The only way to know if the diocese is in accordance is to see its priests’ personnel records, past and present,” Barrett said. “But the diocese won’t release them.”
During his sermon Saturday, Klein seemed agitated and paced back and forth.
He apologized to abuse victims, told parishioners not to put priests on pedestals and suggested that some aspects of the Catholic Church need reform.
“We are at a crossroads,” Klein said.
To read more on the pedophile scandal within the Catholic Church, go to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com
“The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic church. Below are some highlights of the charter, which was created in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
• Zero tolerance toward sex offenders within the church.
• Mandatory reporting to police of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
• Employees and volunteers working with children must undergo a criminal background check and complete a two-hour safe-environment training class.
• Employees and volunteers working with children must supply references that will be checked by church authorities.
• When a priest is accused of molestation, an announcement at all the parishes he served at must be made, along with an invitation for anyone abused to come forward.
• The charter encourages that adults to work in pairs when around children. This will protect the children, but also the worker from false allegations of abuse.
Source: U.S. bishops
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