MO - Priest pleads not guilty

A Catholic priest who’s from here and living back here now pled not guilty yesterday to charges that he molested a Colorado boy last year.

Fr. Charles Robert Manning, 77, is accused of molesting the boy while he was working as pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in Colorado Springs, where he was assigned in 2007. The alleged crimes took place in June 2011.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette (see below), “An arrest affidavit alleges the boy came to Manning for advice on becoming a Catholic and the priest began giving him private lessons, during which he gave the boy alcohol and marijuana. Colorado Springs Police also say Manning took the boy to get his nipples pierced, kissed the boy on the lips and engaged in other sexual acts, after which he thanked the boy.”

“Church officials seem to be doing little or nothing to help police and prosecutors pursue these charges,” said Barbara Dorris of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). “Both bishops – in Colorado Springs and St. Louis – should be beating the bushes looking for more victims, witnesses and whistleblowers who could help resolve this case.”

Manning worked at three St. Louis area parishes - St. Alban Roe in Glencoe (1998-2001), St. Lawrence the Martyr in Bridgeton (2003-2004), and St. John Lateran in Imperial (2004-2007). Each has its own parochial elementary school.

In 2007, he was transferred to Colorado Springs, where another St. Louis native, Bishop Michael Sheridan, heads the local Catholic diocese.

“It’s unusual for an archdiocesan priest to be sent elsewhere with little or no explanation,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “We believe the bishops in Missouri and Colorado owe their flocks the truth about this transfer.”

SNAP has urged Archbishop Robert Carlson to aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered Manning’s crimes and personally visit ever place Manning worked, begging people with information or suspicion to come forward.

SNAP also wants Carlson to explain why Manning was sent out of the archdiocese and disappeared from the Official Catholic Directory in 2002, when the church’s long-simmering clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis exploded.

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