Parishioners Say Priest Won't Return
He Was Linked to a Sexually Explicit Web Site

Associated Press
April 5, 2000

A Roman Catholic priest who was sent out of state after being identified by church officials as the creator of a sexually explicit Web site for gay clergy will not be coming back, according to his parishioners.

Sister Lucille Fournier told churchgoers at Sunday services at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish that the Rev. John Harris would not return.

The Diocese of Portland would not confirm the nun's report. Whether Harris will return is up to the bishop, who has not announced anything publicly, diocese spokesman Marc Mutty said.

Three weeks ago, the diocese sent Harris to a program in Baltimore, Md., to be evaluated on his ability to remain a priest. The diocese would not discuss the program's content.

Harris has since returned to Maine, Mutty said, but he would not elaborate.

Parishioners said they hope Harris will be allowed to return to the pulpit. "What he did was a stupid thing," parishioner Donald Laliberty said. "But a priest is only a man, just like I am. I believe he deserves a second chance."

Others said forbidding the pastor to return is too harsh a punishment.

"Whatever he did wrong, chastise him in some way but send him back where he can do his work," said parishioner Lucille Terrio. "We've been brought up, and we've brought our children up, to forgive. If they do wrong, we don't send them out."

Mutty said the issue is not forgiveness, but what is best for everyone. "Certainly the diocese and the bishop have the best interest of the parishioners at heart," Mutty said. "It may be best for all concerned that Father Harris not return, but that doesn't mean he's not being forgiven."


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