Council Can Speak for City in Renaming Bridge

Kennebec Journal
June 17, 2008

Leaders at the University of Maine at Augusta acted decisively and appropriately after they were approached in May by advocates for the victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Those advocates asked UMA officials to remove the Rev. John J. Curran's name from a scholarship granted by the university and last week, they did. That move now paves the way for other public institutions named after Curran to be changed.

Curran, who died in 1976, had been accused by at least two people of sexual abuse while he was the priest at St. Augustine Church in Augusta. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine corroborated one of the accusations against Curran and says that were Curran alive today, it would ask the Vatican to remove him from the priesthood.

Victims' advocates say that in light of Curran's deeds, naming a student scholarship after him was not only wrong, it was an insult to Curran's victim and other victims of clergy sexual abuse. That's a compelling argument that applies similarly in other cases where Curran's name has been given to a public institution.

Prime among those is the Father Curran Bridge that spans the Kennebec River in downtown Augusta. Last month, we endorsed the drive to rename that bridge, which will take an act of the Legislature. That move appears to be gaining momentum as Augusta Rep. Patsy Crockett, a Democrat, indicated interest in filing such legislation.

"I would need to know that this is in fact what members of the community want to do," Crockett said last week.

To that end, Crockett says she'll seek more information, community response and, perhaps, a City Council recommendation.

While her impulse is admirable and democratic, we don't think Crockett needs to go to such lengths. Augusta residents elect their city councilors to represent their interests and views. While Crockett is free to solicit input from anyone she wants, it's likely that a resolution from the City Council would be enough authority to justify a bill's introduction and would take less time.

The UMA award is now named the "Leadership and Service Scholarship." UMA has indeed exercised leadership and done its community a service by renaming the award. Now, it's time for others to follow suit.


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