Bishop Restores Priest Linked to Sex Offender

By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News
February 7, 2008

BANGOR, Maine - The priest remembered by Bangor Catholics as the man who helped St. Mary Catholic Church rebuild and relocate after the Feb. 3, 1978, blaze that destroyed the 105-year-old landmark on Cedar Street may administer the sacraments again. Just not in Bangor, South Portland or Wells.

Bishop Richard J. Malone announced Wednesday that the Rev. Paul Coughlin, 73, had received permission to exercise priestly ministry again.

Coughlin, who left Bangor in 1987, was temporarily removed from his South Portland pastorate in August 2004 when church officials began an investigation into whether he put children at risk by allowing John Skinner Sr., 65, to live with him at the St. John's rectory between 1999 and 2001.

Skinner was sentenced Aug. 27, 2004, in Penobscot County Superior Court to 18 years in prison, with all but five years suspended, for sexually abusing two boys he met through Catholic church youth groups in Penobscot and Hancock counties.

He has been released from prison and is living in Bangor according to the Maine Sex Offender Registry.

"I believe Father Coughlin has had adequate time to reflect on his actions," the bishop said in a press release issued Wednesday. "As a retired priest, he will not be assigned to any regular ministry, nor will he be allowed to minister in Wells, Bangor or South Portland where he associated with John Skinner [Sr.] and where harm and offense was caused to the communities.

"His presence could cause divisiveness within these parishes today," Malone continued. "Instead, I am allowing him to respond to requests by other parishes to celebrate the Eucharist or perform any other priestly functions on a fill-in basis. He has recently been instructed to notify my office regarding such requests before accepting them."

Coughlin was the subject of an internal review in response to a 2002 complaint alleging sexual misconduct with a boy at St. Mary's in 1985. The misconduct was described as "inappropriate physical contact" the bishop described as "ethical violations" but not criminal offenses.

A native of Woburn, Mass., Coughlin had been assigned to St. Mary's in Bangor less than a month, when a 14-year-old boy set fire to the stone church on the corner of Cedar and First streets in subzero temperatures.

For two years, Coughlin celebrated Mass at the chapel at the former Dow Air Force Base while a new church was built on Ohio Street. The modern St. Mary's was dedicated in December 1980.

The priest also served parishes and schools in Rumford, Waterville, Oakland and Augusta.


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