Ex-Pastor Accused of Sexual Abuse
Acts Involving Machias Man Allegedly Occurred Nearly 10 Years Ago
By Mary Anne Clancy
Bangor Daily News [Maine]
July 18, 2001
News that Raymond Melville, the former pastor of Holy Name Roman Catholic Church, has been accused of sexually abusing an altar boy almost 10 years ago in Augusta was met with disbelief here Tuesday.
"I don't believe a word of it," said Eleanor Sargent, a former parishioner and friend of Melville's since he first came to Machias in 1992. "Why would someone wait this long?"
"I think it's disgusting," said former parishioner Judy Marcus. "Father Melville was a very popular priest and I can't believe he'd do anything like that."
"What can anyone say?" asked Betty Parker. "I thought he was a very good priest and I liked him."
The civil lawsuit by a former altar boy, who is now 29, was filed Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court and seeks an unidentified amount of punitive damages from Melville and the Roman Catholic bishop of Portland.
The suit alleges that Melville sexually abused and molested the unnamed man from 1985 through 1992. The abuse, which allegedly occurred from the time the man was 13 until he was 20, was never reported to the police.
Melville, who left the priesthood in 1997 while stationed in Machias, was assigned to St. Mary's Catholic Church and St. Mary's School in Augusta at the time of the alleged molestation, according to the suit.
The man's attorney, Sumner Lipman of Augusta, said the bishop is named in the lawsuit because the church knew Melville had a history of molesting boys in various locations, including while he was a student at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.
Lipman said Tuesday that the church sent Melville to counseling and rehabilitation in 1990, but continued to move him from parish to parish.
Melville, a native of Bangor, was ordained in June 1984 and served parishes in Augusta, Rumford and Lewiston before being appointed pastor of Holy Name in Machias in July 1992.
He was the pastor of Holy Name when he left the priesthood in 1997. Melville left the area for a time, but returned to Machias and remains active in civic affairs, including the Downeast Fairgrounds Association. He is currently the chairman of the Downeast Rodeo Committee.
Melville returned a call Tuesday and referred questions about the suit to Wendall Large, a Portland attorney. Large said Tuesday that he couldn't respond to specific questions because he is covering for Melville's attorney, John Whitman, who is on vacation.
Marc Mutty, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, on Tuesday confirmed the dates of Melville's assignment in Machias and when he left the priesthood, but said he could not answer questions because the matter is under litigation.
Fred Moore, the Portland attorney who is representing the diocese, said Tuesday that he couldn't speak to details of the case because he hasn't thoroughly reviewed it.
"What I can say is that the bishop has stated publicly on many, many occasions, that anyone who believes they have been abused by a priest in this diocese should contact the chancery, both for corrective action and for counseling, which is provided free of charge to the person who does not have to prove the allegation," he said.
Marcus said she has never heard anyone even hint about a problem with Melville and, given her involvement in the church, believes she would have heard of any suspicions.
Sargent said the accusation against Melville, who has been a close friend for almost eight years, is painful.
"He's worked very hard for this town, and I don't understand why anyone would say anything like that about him," Sargent said.
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