Vatican Punishes Three Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse

By Clarke Canfield
The Associated Press, carried in
February 28, 2006

PORTLAND, Maine --The Vatican has removed two Maine priests and upheld restrictions on a third following an investigation into accusations that they sexually abused minors, church officials said Tuesday.

The Vatican has imposed its most severe punishment by defrocking Christian Roy, 57, and John Shorty, 58, said Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. That means they are permanently removed from the clergy, will not receive a pension or health benefits from the church, and are prohibited from celebrating Mass.

The Vatican also determined that restrictions placed on John Audibert, 65, will remain in effect, Malone said at a press conference at the church's offices. Audibert is still an ordained priest, but is prohibited from wearing clerical clothes or presenting himself as a priest, having unsupervised contact with minors or celebrating Mass in a church.

"I'm sincerely hopeful this information and further information of this kind will bring some measure of justice and healing and closure to victims," Malone said.

Malone said he has also added the name of Louis Berube to a list of deceased priests who, based on available information, would likely be removed from the ministry if they were alive today. The diocese last July released the names of nine deceased priests in response to a court order forcing the attorney general's office to release names of dead priests accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Berube was accused of abusing minors in 1954, 1961 or 1962, and 1971. He retired in 1992 and died in 2002 at the age of 80.

Paul Kendrick, co-founder of the church reform group Voice of the Faithful, said Malone's press conference was a "public relations gimmick" and that he is doing little to protect children from abusive priests.

The diocese, he said, has refused to release the names of at least 20 Maine priests who have been accused of abuse. It also doesn't know the location of a number of priests who have been accused of abuse and then moved away.

"My point is the bishop is not protecting children by keeping secret and continuing to cover up for former and current priests who have histories of abusing children," Kendrick said.

While looking into sexual abuse allegations against priests in Maine, the diocese forwarded 16 cases to the Vatican. The cases announced Tuesday were the first ones the Vatican has sent back.

In the cases of Roy and Shorty, the Vatican determined they should be laicized, or removed from clerical duty and reduced to laymen's status. It is the most severe punishment the Vatican can hand down, Malone said, and the first two forced laicizations in the history of the diocese.

Roy was ordained in 1975 and served in parishes in Augusta, Biddeford, Sanford, Lewiston, Rockland and Belfast. In 1993, he was accused of abuse of minors from 1983-1990 and was never allowed to function again as a priest.

Shorty was ordained in 1974 and was assigned to parishes in Caribou, Portland, Stonington, Castine and Augusta. He was removed from the ministry in 1994 following accusations of sexual abuse dating back to 1976 or 1977.

Audibert was removed from his clerical duties in 2002 and prohibited from wearing clerical clothes, presenting himself as a priest or celebrating Mass in a church, although he may celebrate in private. Audibert was accused in 1993 of sexual abuse of a minor between 1974 and 1976.

Audibert was ordained in 1967 and served in St. Agatha, Fort Kent, Caribou, Bangor, Waterville, Orono, Auburn, Lewiston, Whitefield and Madawaska.

Malone said keeping track of priests who have left the clergy is a difficult task and a "huge challenge" for us. But he is not prepared to release the names of accused priests without some type of due process, either through the church or through civil authorities.

"I wish I could guarantee that there'd never be another case of abuse," he said. "But we know it's a plague in society, which is why it's been a problem in the church. The church doesn't live outside of society."


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