Activists Seek Prey of Priests

By Betty Adams
Kennebec Journal [Augusta MA]
March 1, 2007

An allegedly abusive priest has been gone from St. Mary's parish for almost two decades. But that didn't stop four activists from seeking people Wednesday who might have been abused by him or other clergy.

"We want to reach out to others who have been hurt," said Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

The noontime leafleting and news conference came a week after a former student at St. Mary's School in Augusta sued the Rev. Raymond Melville, who served at St. Mary's in the late 1980s.

William J. Picher, 33, of Augusta says he was a shy, slight, asthmatic seventh- and eighth-grader at the school when Melville sexually abused him.

Picher's lawsuit also says the bishop of Portland failed to adequately supervise Melville and protect children from him after abuse allegations surfaced.

In a published interview, Melville, 64, and living in Oklahoma, denied abusing Picher.

In 2001, Michael Fortin, a former altar boy at St. Mary's, filed a similar claim against Melville and won $500,000 as well as a ruling that says church leaders in Maine can be sued over the actions of their clergy.

Blaine, who lives in Chicago, was accompanied by Harvey Paul of Windham, director of Maine SNAP; Paul Kendrick, of Cumberland; and Marie Tupper, of Boothbay Harbor. The latter two are members of the Ignatius Group, which seeks to reform sex-abuse laws.

The four people were in Augusta on Wednesday primarily to testify before a Legislative committee in support of several bills increasing the time frame in which victims of unlawful sexual abuse can file civil lawsuits.

The group stood briefly in on the Western Avenue sidewalk outside St. Mary of the Assumption Church before taking the pamphlets to nearby residences. No one went in or out of the church. The noise of children playing in the school yard was interrupted by a ringing bell.

Blaine said she did not tell current church leaders about the outreach effort. She hoped the group's effort will embolden more victims to come forward.

"It takes a lot of courage for someone to do that," she said.

Blaine also said she recognizes that any others who may have been victimized by Melville would be adults now and may live outside the city or state.

"We want to try to sound the alarm," Blaine said. "Parents need to know who these men are, and employers should know. We believe the bishop should be here and doing this."

At one home on Sewall Street, a woman accepted a leaflet from Paul and asked him, "If I know of another priest who abused children, would you like to know?"

"Please," he told her.

Mostly, though, there was no response to their knocks, so papers were left in door jambs.

Lucille Dube of Augusta, stopping in at a Sewall Street office, accepted a leaflet and said she thought the publicity effort was a good idea.

She said she attends St. Augustine's and St. Mary's churches and knew Melville.

"I liked him," she said. "He was a good man. You never know."

Betty Adams -- 621-5631


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