Archbishop Chaput removes Centennial priest accused of abuse
Monday, April 12, 2010 at 8:51 am
The Church sex abuse scandal came home this week to Colorado. Charles Chaput, the politically outspoken Archbishop of Denver who has been mostly mum on the scandal that has rocked the Vatican, removed Father Mel Thompson from active ministry at St. Thomas More church in Centennial after complaints that Thompson abused a boy in the 1970s. The alleged victim, now an adult, apparently came forward this weekend. Police in Centennial have reportedly opened a file on the matter even though authorities say any abuse is now beyond the statute of limitations and won’t result in criminal charges.
Thompson has been a priest for nine years at the Centennial church. He previously served at 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 archdiocese asked anyone with concerns about Thompson’s conduct to reach the Child and Youth Protection Office.
“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….
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.
Last year the Vatican appointed Chaput to the small group of Church investigators charged with examining evidence against high-profile abuse suspect Marcial Maciel, founder of the wealthy Legion of Christ order. Revered among the top ranks of the Church, Maciel fathered several children and diverted Legion funds to support some of them. He is accused of abusing seminarians for decades. The anticipated report on the Vatican investigation of Maciel is due out any time and will undoubtedly fuel the scandal already raging in Rome and around the world.