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  Maine's Catholic Diocese to Name Priests Accused of Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 10, 2002

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announced Sunday it will disclose the identities of active priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

The Rev. Michael Doucette of St. Agatha and the Rev. John Audibert of Madawaska announced their histories of sexual impropriety to their parishes this weekend, the diocese said.

Their cases each involved a single teen-age boy and occurred more than 20 years ago, the diocese said. Public authorities have found no other victims.

Both priests were returned to the ministry following residential treatment at a center run by a religious order and evaluations by a review panel.

Criminal charges were not filed against either man.

A retired priest, the Rev. Antonin Caron, faced accusations of sexual misconduct from a young woman, but was acquitted in a 1993 jury trial.

Bishop Joseph Gerry said he knows of no other active priests among the 138 holding assignments in the diocese who have been accused.

The announcement was made as the Boston archdiocese faces increasing scrutiny about sexual abuse. A defrocked priest, John Geoghan, was convicted last month of indecent assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy.

The archdiocese has since given authorities the names of 40 priests who no longer are active, but are accused of sexual abuse. Eight active priests were suspended in the last week because of allegations of abuse.

"What has happened in Boston has put pressure, I think, on all the dioceses across the nation to take a look at their own houses and make sure that they're doing all they can to inform the public," said Sue Bernard, a Portland diocesan spokeswoman.

The Portland diocese is independent of the Boston archdiocese

Doucette, who was assigned to St. Agatha in July 2001, made his announcement to his parish at Saturday and Sunday celebrations of Mass. According to a statement released by the diocese, Doucette said he had "several physical encounters" with a 15-year-old parishioner 22 years ago.

Ten years ago, the victim told church officials about the abuse. Doucette, now 55, was confronted and received six months of psychological and spiritual care at a residential center - a time, Doucette said, that was both the most painful and most "grace-filled" of his life.

"Bishop Joseph allowed me to return to ministry in an assignment prior to this one, only after the evaluations indicated what happened was not indicative of a pattern of behavior in my life, that no evidence of any other victims surfaced, and that the actual incident had happened over ten years earlier," the statement said.

Doucette apologized and acknowledged that parishioners may no longer want him as their pastor.

"I know that I will always have to deal with the knowledge of what this incident has caused, especially in the life of my victim. I pray for him regularly and I hope that you will offer your prayers for him as well," Doucette said. "I'm sure your knowing these facts also causes you pain and I am truly sorry for that. At this time some might say that anyone who did what I did should never be allowed to minister in the church again."

Audibert was removed from his ministry at Holy Cross in Lewiston when church officials learned about allegations against him, the diocese said. The abuse occurred in 1976.

Audibert was assigned to St. Denis in Whitefield in 1997 and St. Thomas in Madawaska three years later.

Audibert's case was well known and he previously told his parishes about the abuse, Bernard said.

"Everybody up there already knew it, but we wanted to bring it up again," Bernard said.

Bernard did not know where the priests were assigned when the abuses occurred

The diocese also said Sunday it will seek the input of parishioners regarding the assignments of accused priests. Church officials were present when Doucette and Audibert made their announcements this weekend and planned to return in the following weeks to speak with parishioners.

 
 

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