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  Three Priests Investigated for Links to Gay Clergy Web Site

By John Richardson
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
September 19, 2003

A defunct Web site for gay clergy that stirred controversy in Maine's Catholic church in 2000 emerged in the news again this month after the church disclosed new allegations of misconduct against one of the priests involved. The site, St. Sebastian's Angels, featured pornography and sexually explicit discussions.

Three priests were investigated in 2000 for their involvement in the site.

The Rev. John Harris, producer of the Web site, was removed from his parish in Sabattus and sent to an out-of-state treatment program for several months before being reinstated as a parish priest in Rangeley.

Church officials later received a report that Harris had been seen nude with boys while swimming and boating at a private youth camp in Waterford in the 1980s. The Portland Diocese investigated the allegation for at least 16 months but did not disclose the incidents until this month because it was working only with second-hand reports rather than actual victim statements, according to Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese. She said the diocese does not disclose allegations that have not been substantiated.

Harris has not been disciplined because he was granted a voluntary leave of absence less than a month before the church finished the investigation. If Harris seeks to return to the ministry, however, the church would begin disciplinary action, Bernard said.

The Rev. Antonin Caron was charged in 1993 with sexually assaulting and sexually abusing a teen-age girl. He was acquitted in 1994 by a Washington County Superior Court jury.

He had stepped down from his duties as parish priest in Baileyville during the investigation and trial, and afterward was reinstated to a limited ministry as a retired priest. The change in his status was the result of a disability, not because of any discipline by the church, Bernard said.

In 2000, he was investigated again because of his participation in the Web site. He was barred from performing any priestly duties during the investigation, Bernard said, and was later disciplined internally and reinstated to his status as a retired priest on disability. He continues to do occasional limited work in the ministry although is not assigned to any parish.

The Rev. Normand Richard posted messages on the Web site but was less directly involved and did not lose his priestly duties even during the investigation, Bernard said. He also was disciplined internally, but Bernard would not say how.

In 1991, church officials placed Richard on sabbatical and sent him away for treatment because of a relationship Richard had with a transitional deacon studying for the priesthood under his supervision.

 
 

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