Maine Court Rejects 'Charitable Immunity'; SNAP Responds

July 7, 2009

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)

We appreciate the court's decision to let the truth about cover ups of clergy sex crimes finally surface. We are grateful to Mr. Picher for having the courage to come forward, the strength to take legal action and the persistence to endure Bishop Malone's seemingly limitless efforts to delay justice.

It's time for Catholic officials to start acting like caring shepherds and stop acting like cold-hearted CEOs. It's time for them to defend predator priests on the merits, not on the technicalities. It's time for them to face their responsibilities and stop trying to weasel out of them by trying to exploit every possible loophole.

We hope Maine citizens and Catholics will lean on Portland's bishop to stop wasting time and money protecting predator priests and their corrupt colleagues. It's sad to think of generous parishioner donations being used to finance expensive lawyers, dangerous secrecy and irresponsible maneuvers.

In criminal courts, civil courts and the court of public opinion, Catholic bishops keep trying to portray their deliberately deception and intentional cover ups as 'unforeseeable' or innocent mistakes. That's disingenuous and we're thankful the Maine Supreme Court apparently agrees. Insurance policies cover unavoidable accidents, not conscious criminal cover ups. The law protects non-profits that make mistakes, not institutions that deliberately shun victims, endanger kids, deceive parishioners, mislead police and stonewall prosecutors.

We hope that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes will be inspired by this ruling, and find the courage to step forward, get help, call police, protect kids and start healing.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 20 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)

Jul 7, 2009 4:57 pm US/Eastern

Maine Court Rejects 'Charitable Immunity'

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) ? Maine's supreme court has ruled against the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in a sex-abuse case that raised an issue of immunity.

In a 5-2 decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the bishop is not entitled to use the defense of charitable immunity for intentional acts. William Picher has claimed he was abused by a priest in Augusta in the 1980s. He says the priest's supervisors knew about former Rev. Raymond Melville's tendencies but did nothing to stop the abuse.

The church claimed protection by charitable immunity. The supreme court affirmed the availability of defense of charitable immunity for negligent actions, but said that defense doesn't apply for intentional actions.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.