Bishop Rescinds Priest's Resumption of Duties

By David Hench
Portland Press Herald
February 8, 2008

PORTLAND — Maine's Roman Catholic bishop has rescinded his decision to allow a controversial priest to resume priestly duties.

Bishop Richard Malone announced this morning that reaction to his decision to let Rev. Paul Coughlin resume limited duties led the bishop to reverse his decision.

"Now, the public outcry over my decision to allow him some public ministry has made it clear that I misjudged the possibility of an effective ministry for Father Coughlin," Malone said in a statement. "And it's clear that many are deeply angry and hurt that I took such an action. For these reasons I informed Father Coughlin today that his ministry is once again completely restricted in the interest of the common good."

In October of 2004, Malone asked Coughlin to step down as pastor of Holy Cross and St. John parishes in South Portland.

Coughlin broke church policy when he failed to report allegations against a church volunteer, John Skinner, from the late 1980s. Coughlin also allowed Skinner to live in the rectory of St. John the Evangelist Church, without notifying the parish or diocesan leaders about the claims.

Although no one in South Portland ever accused Skinner of abuse, Malone said Coughlin put children there at risk.

Three months ago, the bishop gave permission for Coughlin to exercise ministry on a fill-in basis, with some restrictions. He has since performed masses in a convent setting.

"I apologize to abuse victims and all the Catholic faithful who feel betrayed by my earlier decision," Malone said. "It was never my intention to offend or cause you distress, and it pains me to think I have caused some to be disheartened or distrusting."


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