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  Vatican Dismisses 2 Maine Priests
Their Sexual Abuse of Minors Results in the Catholic Church's Harshest Penalty: Laicization

By Ann S. Kim
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
May 31, 2008

Two Roman Catholic priests from Maine have been dismissed from the clergy by the Vatican because of their sexual abuse of minors, the Diocese of Portland said Friday.

George W. Beaudet, 69, and Michael L. Plourde, 57, are the third and fourth Maine priests to be laicized as a result of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the church.

Both men previously had been removed from ministry, but their laicization by the Vatican means they are permanently stripped of the rights and duties of priesthood.

The action, sometimes called "defrocking" outside the church, is considered the church's strictest penalty against priests. Connection to church authority is severed. A priest who has been laicized loses the right to wear clerical clothing, the use of the title "Father" and pensions and health benefits.

A diocesan statement said Bishop Richard Malone apologizes again to survivors of abuse and all those harmed by the sexual abuse scandal.

"He continues to encourage anyone who has ever been abused by the clergy or other church representatives to make a report to the diocese or the police," the statement said.

Beaudet, who was most recently assigned to St. Anne in Dexter, was laicized for abuse dating back to 1979. Plourde, whose last assignment was at the Augusta Mental Health Institute, was punished for abuse from 1976 to 1978.

Advocates for clergy abuse victims said laicization is not enough to keep children safe.

"I think the greater good would come from publicizing where these people are," said Harvey Paul, Maine director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "They're still out there anonymously. They could be living next door to you."

Paul said the church still has a responsibility to prevent abuse by laicized clergy. He wants the diocese to post information about abusers, including their addresses and photos, on a Web site, which he said is a practice in Davenport, Iowa, and Philadelphia.

Paul Kendrick, an advocate for the abused, said he worries that such announcements by the diocese encourages Catholics to become complacent in thinking that church officials are doing everything needed.

"Real healing, real justice in the Catholic Church, in my mind, will come when the leadership is truly held accountable for its past actions," said Kendrick, who is a founder of the Ignatius Group.

According to the diocese, Beaudet was immediately removed from ministry after he was first accused in 2000. Church officials said they received additional complaints in 2002 about conduct going back to 1980.

Abuse by Plourde was first reported to church officials in 1994, and he was removed from ministry that year, according to the diocese. Other complaints followed about behavior from 1976 to 1978.

Plourde had been removed from ministry previously, in 1989, after a complaint about sexual misconduct involving an adult. He was returned to ministry after treatment.

The diocese said it has alerted civil authorities about Beaudet and Plourde, and also church authorities about Beaudet. The diocese said Beaudet lives outside of Maine. Paul and Kendrick believe Plourde lives in Biddeford, near St. Joseph's Church, where he had once been assigned.

Plourde was assigned to Holy Cross in Lewiston, St. Joseph in Biddeford, St. Hyacinth in Westbrook, St. Agatha in St. Agatha, St. Joseph in Sinclair, Holy Family in Daigle, St. Mary in Augusta, and St. John the Baptist in Winslow. He was also the assistant to the lay chaplain at AMHI.

Beaudet's assignments were at Notre Dame in Waterville, St. Joseph in Portland, St. Theresa in Mexico, St. Mary in Westbrook, St. Gerard in Grand Isle, Notre Dame in Skowhegan, St. Patrick in Newcastle, St. Peter in East Millinocket and St. Anne in Dexter.

In January 2007, Malone released the names of four Maine priests with cases before church courts in Rome because of allegations of sexual abuse. The cases of Beaudet, Plourde, Frederick Carrigan and Ronald Michaud had not been resolved, and Malone said he disclosed their identities because the process was taking a long time and he worried that they might abuse again. Malone had recommended laicization for all four.

The disclosure of names marked a change in policy. Previously, the names of the accused were released only after the Vatican resolved the cases.

Carrigan and Michaud's cases are still pending, said Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the diocese. It's not clear when the cases will be decided, which is why Malone released the names last year, she said.

"We have no idea how long it would take to have the final results," she said.

The two other Maine priests who have been laicized are Christian Roy and John Shorty. The Vatican had assigned two others, Peter Gorham and Francis Kane, to a life of prayer and penance, an action usually applied to those who are elderly or in poor health.

The case of Thomas Lee, who stepped down from ministry in 2003, is still pending. He has asked for a canonical trial and the Vatican has granted the request.

 
 

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