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April 14, 2010
Swift action painful but necessary in abuse allegation
This past weekend, a version of the following letter was read, at my request, at St. Thomas More Parish, where Father Mel Thompson most recently served, and at every other parish - like Christ the King - where he ministered as a priest:
April 9, 2010
Dear friends in Christ,
I need to inform you of difficult news. On April 8, I relieved Father Mel Thompson, who has served St. Thomas More Parish as parochial vicar for the last nine years, of his duties. I have removed his priestly faculties and withdrawn him from active ministry. Please note that Father Thompson previously served at Christ the King Parish in 1969.
It is important to note that Father Thompson maintains his innocence of the allegation, and to respect his privacy as this matter proceeds.
Anyone who has concerns about the conduct of Father Thompson during his time of service at Christ the King Parish—or any other clergy member, parish or school
employee, or Church volunteer in the archdiocese who deals with minors—should contact Mr. Chris Pond, director of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Child and Youth Protection Office, at 303-715-3226.
Please keep your parish and the larger Church community in your prayers during this painful time.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Over the course of his long career, Father Thompson has been a popular and effective priest, respected by his brother priests and well-loved by many parishioners. It’s no surprise, then, that various people from around the archdiocese have voiced their frustration with the speed and “unfairness” of the archdiocesan response to a reported incident from more than 35 years ago. Father Thompson has no previous allegation of any sexual misconduct with a minor in his priestly history; in fact, any priest who did, would not be allowed to minister in the archdiocese. He also maintains his innocence of the allegation, and that presumption of innocence, along with his privacy, must be respected.
In removing Father Thompson, or any member of the clergy, from ministry in a situation like this, we act purely to ensure the safety of children, families and the integrity of the Church community. We take all allegations of abuse seriously. Prompt action is painful for the whole local Church, but it’s a necessary course to protect people’s trust in their parish and in the archdiocese. In this case, and in any other such case that may occur in the future, we follow diocesan and national policies that exist to serve the safety of our people, and to respect the suffering and dignity of victims. These priorities are vitally important, and they will not change.
The only “good” news in today’s heavy, renewed media attention to international allegations of clergy sex abuse is that we’ve learned a great deal from experience. It’s clear now, in ways far more irrefutable and widely reported than in years past, that celibacy has nothing to do with the cause of clergy sexual abuse; that the Church in the United States has acted vigorously to deal with this problem; that priests abuse young people at no higher rate than any other profession or social group; that sexual abuse of minors is equally prevalent in public schools and institutions; and that too often - as Investor’s Business Daily editorialized on April 9 - too much of the press itself, including leading publications like The New York Times, has a seriously flawed approach to reporting this sensitive issue.
Please pray for the healing of the person who has brought this claim forward. We also need to remember Father Thompson in our prayers. Please pray in a special way for all those persons whose lives are wounded in our society by the sin and crime of sexual abuse. And finally, please pray for a renewal of faith and zeal for our whole local Church in this Easter season.
April 15: Presbyteral Council followed by Priest Personnel Board and College of Consultors’ meeting, JPII Center (10 a.m.); Opening Mass for Knights of Columbus Convention, Colorado Springs (5 p.m.)
April 16: Opening prayer, State Capitol (9 a.m.); Hope Springs Eternal Luncheon, Inverness Hotel, Centennial (11:30 a.m.); Mass and confirmation, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Denver (7 p.m.)
April 17: Mass for Nocturnal Adoration Society, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (4:30 p.m.); Bishop Machebeuf High School Buffalo Ball, National Western Complex, Denver (8 p.m.)
April 18: Mass and confirmation, St. Elizabeth Anne Seton Parish, Fort Collins (11:30 a.m.); Mass for Kateri community, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (6:30 p.m.)
April 19-22: Priests’ Convocation, Keystone
The Investor’s Business Daily editorial can be found on line at www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/Article.aspx?id=529896.