|Church Panel Clears Priest of Abuse Allegation
By John Ingold
The Denver Post
January 2, 2011
A popular metro-area Catholic priest who was removed from duty last this year following an allegation of sexual abuse has been cleared and restored to priestly service.
The Archdiocese of Denver said in a statement today a special church panel that investigates abuse allegations looked into the accusation against Rev. Mel Thompson and concluded, "that the allegation against Father Thompson is not supported by the evidence they reviewed."
The panel reached that conclusion after interviewing a number of people involved in the case and "others who might have helpful information."
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput explained the decision in a letter read aloud Sunday at the parishes in the metro area where Thompson served, including Lakewood's Our Lady of Fatima and Centennial's St. Thomas More, where Thompson was most recently posted.
"Any allegation of this nature creates immense pain both for the accuser and the accused," Chaput wrote in the letter. "I'm grateful to all for their patience throughout this very demanding process."
In April, an allegation surfaced that Thompson had abused a young boy in the 1970s.
The day after hearing of the allegation, the church removed Thompson from service at St. Thomas More, where he was the assistant pastor for nine years and was known for his sense of humor and love of Irish heritage.
The church also notified Denver police, though officials there said they did not pursue the investigation because the statute of limitations had lapsed.
Throughout, Thompson maintained his innocence.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said the church, following its policies when there is an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, referred the investigation to the Archdiocesan Conduct Response Team. The team is made up of lay people and a church official.
DeMelo said that Thompson, who is in his 70s, requested retirement, which Chaput granted.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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