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Parishioners in Colorado Springs were stunned to learn about a sex allegation against their priest, an accusation reportedly involves a minor.
The accused is a priest at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, near Research and Powers. Father Robert Manning has been temporarily suspended from his duties as a priest while the investigation is underway.
The diocese says the allegation surfaced earlier this month. Officials say they immediately reported it to police. Church members got the news at mass over the weekend, and many were very surprised to hear about the allegation of sexual abuse of a child.
"If you met Father Manning--you think no way, it's not possible,” parishioner Craig Simonsgaard.
In a statement from the diocese, it says that they're taking the allegation against Manning seriously and will be conducting their own investigation, in addition to the inquiry Springs police are conducting. They reminded churchgoers that Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
"In my mind, it's as possible that he's guilty as it is he's not,” Simonsgaard said. “And he's innocent until he's found guilty."
Police said Monday that they are investigating Manning on allegations of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. They emphasized that the church "has been, and continues to be, extremely cooperative with the CSPD as it relates to this case."
Allegations of sexual abuse by priests have rattled the Catholic Church worldwide in recent years, something that churchgoers are aware of.
"We have higher expectations so when they fall, they fall harder,” Simonsgaard said. “I think the Catholic Church in particular draws a lot of fire because it continues to hold the line on very contentious issues in America."
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