Parishioners at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial say they are in disbelief about the recent removal of a beloved priest over 35-year-old …
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Parishioners at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial
say they are in disbelief about the recent removal of a beloved
priest over 35-year-old sexual-abuse allegations.
Father Melvin Thompson, 74, was relieved of his duties by Denver
Archbishop Charles Chaput on April 8, one day after a man alleged
that he was abused by Thompson at an undisclosed church in the
Thompson, now under investigation by the Denver Archdiocese, is
unlikely to face criminal charges in the matter due to a statute of
limitations. He has maintained his innocence.
The accusations against Thompson have come as a shock to
virtually everyone at St. Thomas More, according to parishioner
Michael Kirrane, a Centennial resident who serves as the church’s
“It was absolutely out of the blue,” Kirrane said of the charge.
“When I heard about it, I said, what? April Fool’s was a week
Thompson’s swift removal was in direct response to a 2002
Vatican dictate on the way archdioceses are now supposed to respond
to sexual-abuse allegations.
There are no other known accusations against Thompson, who most
local parishioners describe as a compassionate church leader with a
strong ethic and a quick sense of humor.
“He’s absolutely outstanding. He’s a brilliant man,” Kirrane
said. “If these allegations are true, I’d be absolutely godsmacked,
as they say in England. If he’s guilty, I’m going to be crushed. I
would put everything I have up to defend him.”
Church organist Gerry Cummins, a former elected Centennial city
clerk, says Thompson would have been the last priest she would have
ever suspected of abusing a child.
“His focus has really been on the sick and dying,” Cummins said.
“Either I’m a very bad judge of character or they’ve got the wrong
The investigation has come as the Catholic Church reels from a
larger and long-standing worldwide scandal over sexual abuse by
Earlier this month, the Vatican posted its revised guide for
handling abuse cases on its website. The 2002 dictate was the
result of a policy overhaul led by Pope Benedict XVI, who was then
known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Decades-old charges against Thompson have surfaced in the wake
of the pope being accused of failing to take sufficient action on
abuse reports while he served as a high-ranking cardinal in
According to the Vatican’s revamped guidelines, bishops are now
required to restrict the activities of suspected priests and
immediately report all allegations to the Vatican and law
While Thompson has received broad support from St. Thomas More
parishioners, most believe the Denver Archdiocese has acted
responsibly in relieving the Centennial priest of his duties
pending the church’s investigation.
“Given the broader context, it’s probably the right thing to
do,” Deb Wells said. “I’m saddened by the situation and hope that
the investigation goes smoothly and finds no information that would
Kirrane agrees that a speedy resolution would be best for
beleaguered Thompson and for the St. Thomas More congregation.
“The Archdiocese did what it needed to do in light of the way
Boston, Chicago, Ireland and Germany covered up,” Kirrane said.
“Archbishop Chaput is as straight an arrow as you’ll ever come
Regardless of how the church’s investigation turns out, Thompson
is unlikely to face criminal charges. Although current Colorado law
has no statute of limitations on child sex assault, the state had a
three-year cut-off during the period in which Thompson is
Thompson is the second St. Thomas More priest to be relieved of
duties this year. On Jan. 11, Chaput removed Father Paul Montez
after a Centennial family accused the priest of stalking them.
On April 17, Timothy and Teresa Boh asked a Douglas County judge
for a permanent restraining order against Montez, who they allege
tried to alienate their teenage son from them with elaborate gifts
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