Priest Removed after Sex Abuse Complaint

The Denver Channel
April 11, 2010

DENVER -- A Centennial priest has been removed from active ministry after the archbishop of Denver received complaints the priest abused a minor in the 1970s.

In a statement Sunday, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said Father Mel Thompson has been removed from his priestly duties and has withdrawn from active ministry.

Thompson has served at St. Thomas More church in

Centennial for about nine years.

Centennial for about nine years.

"I was deeply shocked and surprised. Father Mel has always been very, very good to us all here at St. Thomas More," said parishioner Roberta Marchese.

The removal comes after an April 7 complaint against Thompson for "past sexual misconduct with a minor that reportedly occurred in the early 1970s," Chaput said.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese, Jeanette DeMelo, said Sunday the abuse complaint came from a grown male.

The church would not be more specific about when the alleged misconduct occurred, and a timeline provided by the church does not say where Thompson served from 1970 to 1973. After that, Thompson was assigned to Good Shepherd Parish in Denver, formerly named St. John the Evangelist.

The church has reported the alleged abuse to local law enforcement, Chaput said. Denver police spokesman Matt Murray said the officer in charge of leading such investigations has not been notified about this particular case. However, Murray said that doesn't mean the case could be in the department's system waiting to be investigated on Monday.

Murray added that based on the dates the allegations took place, it could be beyond the statues of limitations and criminal charges could not be filed.

The church has alerted parishes and other dioceses where Thompson served.

"It is important to note that Father Thompson maintains his innocence of the allegation, and to respect his privacy as this matter proceeds," Chaput said in the statement.

St. Thomas More parishioner Jared Matthiesen said he'll wait for the truth before passing judgement.

"Father Mel is an amazing person. I've known him for a long time and I would still trust my children around him," said Matthiesen.

Thompson was ordained a priest in 1967 and was trained at St. Thomas seminary in Denver.

He served at numerous churches including Our Lady of Fatima, St. Vincent De Paul, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Good Shepherd (formerly St. John the Evangelist), St. Rose of Lima, and Christ the King.

The church asked anyone with concerns about Thomson's conduct to reach the archdiocese's Child and Youth Protection Office.

DeMelo said Thompson was not the main pastor of St. Thomas More and that other priests will fill in for him while an investigation continues.

The announcement comes as sex abuse allegations have swept across Europe and the U.S. in recent weeks. The pope himself has come under fire for the handling of cases that date to his tenure as archbishop of Munich and as a Vatican cardinal in charge of the office dealing with abuse cases.

Last week Pope Benedict XVI said he is willing to meet with more victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Benedict has already met with abuse victims during trips to the United States and Australia and with Canadians at the Vatican.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said many victims are looking not for financial compensation but for moral help.

He said proper selection and training of prospective priests will be crucial in preventing further abuse, and he insisted that the church keep carrying out canon trials "with decisiveness and truthfulness" and cooperate with civil authorities.

"Only that way can we actually restore an atmosphere of justice and full trust in the ecclesiastical institution," Lombardi said.

The Vatican has denounced accusations that the church, including Benedict, engaged in a cover-up, and has blamed the media for what it calls a smear campaign against the pontiff and his advisers.

Lombardi renewed those attacks Friday, saying the media have failed to portray the pervasiveness of child sex abuse in modern society and the way the church's experience can be useful to society at large.

He praised the pope's patience in facing up to "the steady trickle of partial and alleged 'revelations' that seek to damage his own credibility and that of other people or institutions in the church."

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.