Locals Express Mixed Feelings about Priests

By Trevor Maxwell
Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine)
March 1, 2006

Patty Castonguay thought stress had pushed the Rev. John Shorty out of the priesthood when he left St. Mary's Church in Augusta.

Like many others in the parish, Castonguay never heard about the allegations against the well-liked priest.

She never knew that Shorty's sabbatical in 1994 was actually a forced removal from the ministry, or that he later received therapy for abuse of a minor, dating back to the late 1970s.

"About four years after he left Augusta, I heard that he had left the priesthood, but we did not know why," Castonguay said of Shorty, who ministered at her sister's wedding. "I assumed it was the stress from renovating the church. I loved him. I thought he was a great priest."

Castonguay was shocked to hear on Tuesday that Shorty, 58, was one of two Maine priests permanently removed from the priesthood by the Vatican. The other is 57-year-old Christian E. Roy, who served in six towns between 1975 and 1991.

The Vatican also ruled that restrictions against the Rev. John Audibert -- barred from the ministry since 2002 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland -- will remain in place.

Allegations of sexual abuse against children were substantiated for all three priests.

"It kind of blows me away," said Castonguay, who was president of a parents group at St. Mary's when Shorty was pastor there. "He was very well thought of."

Shorty has not been active in the ministry since leaving his post in 1994, and requested to be laicized by the Vatican, according to the diocese. That means he is released from the rights and obligations of the priesthood.

Between 1974 and 1994, Shorty served at Holy Rosary in Caribou, St. Patrick's in Portland, St. Mary Star of the Sea in Stonington, and at St. Mary's.

Roy's last assignment was in the early 1990s, at St. Francis of Assisi in Belfast. He previously served in Augusta, Biddeford, Sanford, Lewiston and Rockland, between the years of 1975 and 1991. The diocese says it banned Roy from the ministry in 1993, after substantiating allegations that he abused a minor from 1983 to 1990. Two other complaints were lodged against Roy after he was removed.

Fleurange Renaud remembers Roy from the priest's five years at Holy Family Parish in Lewiston, in the 1980s. Like Shorty, Renaud said, Roy was well-liked and trusted. He held a leadership position with the Catholic Committee on Scouting, and was active with the Boy Scouts in Lewiston. Renaud heard about the Vatican's ruling on the television news Tuesday.

"I suppose we have to go with what the church decides, with the Pope's judgment," said Renaud, who lives across the street from the church.

Support for the Rev. John Audibert remains strong at St. Thomas in Madawaska, where he served before being removed in 2002. In 1993, Audibert was accused of abusing a teenage boy in Caribou between 1974 and 1976. He was immediately removed from the ministry, received therapy, and later confessed his actions to the parish.

Between 1967 and 2002, Audibert held posts in St. Agatha, Fort Kent, Caribou, Bangor, Orono, Auburn, Lewiston, Whitefield, Augusta and Madawaska.


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