Victims' Advocates Still Critical of Catholic Diocese's Response to Priest Abuse Claims

WMTW [Portland ME]
September 19, 2003

PORTLAND (AP) -- The Portland Catholic Diocese is responding too slowly and too secretly to claims of sexual abuse by priests, say victim advocates.

But church officials and some parishioners disagree. They say some reports show that those advocates and the press are pushing the issue too much.

In the past two weeks the Portland Diocese has disclosed two new allegations of sexual misconduct with children by two additional Maine priests.

Advocates for victims and for church reform say the diocese might not be investigating the Revs. John Harris and Thomas Lee for possible abuse if not for intervention from the advocacy group Voice of the Faithful.

The group urged for nearly a year that Harris be investigated and met with the family of Lee's accuser in the weeks before the church's announcement.

But other Catholic parishioners say that Voice of the Faithful is going to far. They point to the case of the Rev. Normand Richard.

Richard's parishioners say they are angry after learning about Richard's involvement several years ago in a gay web site through the media. Reporters were tipped off by VOTF.

Parishioners say Richard's past mistakes should be forgiven and not publicized and that VOTF doesn't speak for the majority of parishioners in the Catholic church.


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