|Accused Priest Spent Time Counseling Teens in Springs
By Mark Barna
April 27, 2010
At St. Mary’s High School in Colorado Springs, the Rev. Melvin Thompson spent much of his time counseling boys and girls.
But the priest’s employment at St. Mary’s is now under a microscope in the wake of allegations that he molested a boy in the early 1970s.
Thompson, suspended this month from a Denver church after the allegations, was a chaplain at the school in 1970 and 1971, St. Mary’s principal John McCord said Tuesday. Chaplain duties at the school involve close proximity to children and teens, and includes hearing their confessions, he said.
The Archdiocese of Denver will not reveal where the alleged molestation took place, but a timeline is developing that places Thompson in Colorado Springs during the period in question.
Last weekend, the Rev. Jim Klein of Divine Redeemer Catholic Church in the Springs told parishioners that Thompson was an assistant priest in the parish in the early 1970s. Klein also said he was assured by the Archdiocese that the reported incident didn’t occur at the church.
Divine Redeemer deacon Ray Milberg said Thompson’s time at the church appears to have been during a short period in 1970. “He was here long enough to do some baptisms,” Milberg said.
From September 1970 until at least May 1971, Thompson was a chaplain at St. Mary’s High, McCord said.
McCord discovered Thompson’s employment after combing through old St. Mary’s High School year books, he said.
Frustrated that the Archdiocese had no record of Thompson’s employment at St. Mary’s, McCord decided to take up the research himself.
On Monday, McCord sent out an e-mail to parents of St. Mary’s students. He did this before getting an official OK from the Colorado Springs Diocese and the Archdiocese because, he said, he was not receiving timely responses.
“I felt it was important to get this information out to the parents as soon as possible,” McCord said.
After May 1971, there is no record of Thompson’s employment until 1973, when he was re-assigned to Denver’s St. John the Evangelist Church, now called Good Shepherd, Archdiocese spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said.
Thompson, the assistant pastor of nine years at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in the Denver area, maintains his innocence in the case.
St. Mary’s has received no complaints related to Thompson or any other employee since Monday’s announcement, McCord said.
“We continue to try to do all the right things regarding teacher training,” he said.
Divine Redeemer parishioners interviewed Tuesday said they aren’t concerned about the level of child safety today at the church and Springs Catholic schools.
John and Lisa Riley became members of Divine Redeemer last month. They have two children, ages 9 and 11, enrolled at Divine Redeemer Middle School.
“The school is a close-knit group,” John Riley, 39, said. “We are not at all worried.”
Dan Mersman has attended Divine Redeemer for most of his life. He was an altar boy at the church in the early 1970s and graduated from the church’s middle school in 1973. In 1977, he graduated from St. Mary’s High School, which at the time had about 650 students.
Mersman, 51, has fond memories of his time at both schools, and has no recollection of Thompson.
“It was a great time,” Mersman said. “We never had any problems.”
Got to Barna’s blog, The Pulpit, at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com, for more news on the pedophile scandals within the Catholic Church.
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