Members of an advocate group for victims of priest sexual abuse met in front of the headquarters of the Archidiocese of St. Louis Thursday afternoon to demand answers about Rev. Charles Robert Manning of Colorado Springs.
The group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is a national organization that acts as a watch-dog for sexual assault crimes brought against religious leaders. It wants Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis to clear up ambiguities in Manning’s history with the Catholic church after learning that Manning is being investigated in a sexual assault case in Colorado.
Manning, formerly of three St. Louis Catholic parishes, came to St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in Colorado Springs in 2007. At a Saturday mass, Rev. Rafael Torres-Rico told the congregation that allegations of sexual assault on a minor have been brought against Manning.
Manning has not been arrested or charged; the Diocese of Colorado Springs has placed Manning on administrative leave and temporarily suspended his role as priest. The allegations are being investigated by Colorado Springs police.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director for SNAP in St. Louis, said there are two troubling ambiguities in Manning’s record. Manning was not assigned to a parish in 2002 and records show that he frequently moved from parish to parish.
Meticulous records of Catholic priests are kept by The Official Catholic Directory, which records when priests were ordained and where they are active. If priests take a leave for illness or other reasons that is recorded, Dorris said.
Manning’s record has a blank year, in 2002. “Not being listed at all is extremely unusual,” Dorris said Wednesday.
Manning left St. Alban Roe in Wildwood, Mo., in 2001, and appears at St. Lawrence the Martyr in Bridgeton, Mo., in 2003. Officials at the churches could not be reached Thursday.
Manning’s disappearance from records in 2002 is “significant,” said Terry McKiernan, president of a priest watch-dog organization, www.bishop-accountability.org, Inc. a non-profit corporation.
“There are a couple of years when being missing from the Catholic directory was especially significant, and 2002 was one of them,” McKiernan said Thursday.
It was during that year that sex scandals with priests in Boston broke into public view.
“Weird things were happening because they were hiding these guys,” McKiernan said.
Another thing that raises questions is Manning’s frequent change of parishes, McKiernan said. Manning was ordained in 1997, and over the next 14 years served in four parishes.
Typically, a priest’s duty at a particular parish lasts six years, McKiernan said.
McKiernan pointed out the occasionally priests are removed from the records index, only to show up on leave in another year’s directory.
Manning was given permission to serve in Colorado Springs by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said Doug Flinn, general counsel for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. A posting in St. Louis Review on behalf of the Archibishop in 2007 announced Manning’s departure from Missouri.
“REV. C. Robert Manning, pastor of St. John Parish, Imperial, has resigned his pastorate, his resignation has been accepted, and he is released for assignment in the Diocese of Colorado Springs, effective June 19, 2007.”
For McKiernan, this announcement is unusually blunt and raises another red flag.
“Priests don’t resign like that and get assigned to another parish. For me that note is surprisingly frank, even though they don’t say why,” he said.
“There’s a little bit of a message there that St. Louis wasn’t happy with him.”
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