Two Priests Who Abused Boys in Maine Are Removed
March 10, 2002
By FOX BUTTERFIELD
New York Times
BOSTON, March 9 - Two Roman Catholic priests in small towns
in northern Maine who had acknowledged molesting boys in
their parishes decades ago were removed from their posts
today by the bishop of Portland.
In a statement read at an afternoon Mass in St. Agatha,
near the Canadian border, Bishop Joseph J. Gerry said he
had decided to remove the priests after a new accusation of
sexual misconduct against one of them surfaced this week,
and because of what he called "the recent events in
He referred to the scandal involving a defrocked priest,
John Geoghan, who was shuttled for years from parish to
parish by archdiocesan officials who knew about his
history; Mr. Geoghan was sentenced last month to 9 to 10
years in prison for indecent assault. The Geoghan case has
led to a flood of revelations about accused priests in
Boston and in other dioceses across the country, most
recently Palm Beach, Fla., whose bishop resigned on Friday
after admitting he sexually abused a teenage seminarian in
Bishop Gerry said he had considered pleas from some
parishioners to keep the two priests in their jobs because
they were very popular and because otherwise the towns they
served might be without a priest, given the church's
growing shortage of clergymen.
"I must say I was often deeply moved and heartened by the
messages I received from parishioners," Bishop Gerry said.
"It has been very inspiring to hear how the Gospel message
of forgiveness and reconciliation has taken root in these
communities" in northern Maine.
But the new accusation of sexual misconduct against the
Rev. Michael Doucette, of St. Agatha, and the continuing
revelations in Boston "makes it impossible in my mind" for
Father Doucette and the other priest, the Rev. John
Audibert of Madawaska, to remain in their parishes, Bishop
Gerry said. He did not say where the priests would go now.
Residents of St. Agatha, in an isolated area of potato
farms and paper mills where many people still speak French,
were sharply divided over Bishop Gerry's decision to remove
their priest, Father Doucette. In the newly disclosed
accusation, a 33- year-old man said Father Doucette made a
sexual advance to him 17 years ago.
"He was one of my favorite priests and I hurt bad," said
Rita Gwyer, standing outside the church after the Mass this
afternoon. "But the statement by the diocese was well put
and under the circumstances they were right to let him go."
However, in the nearby town of Sinclair, where Father
Doucette has also been the priest, Gloria Caron was
embittered by the decision. "This is the last time I am
stepping foot inside the church," Ms. Caron said. "I know
he made a mistake, a big one. But 22 years ago?" she said,
referring to the time of the incident that Father Doucette
has acknowledged. "That is preposterous."
In Boston today, Cardinal Bernard F. Law took questions and
criticism at an all-day convocation that gave more than
2,500 priests and lay members of the archdiocese their
first chance to express their concern, frustration and
devotion to a church that has been torn apart by the sexual
Many of the parishioners, most of whom serve on parish
councils and staffs, said they were surprised at how candid
the expressions of anger and betrayal had been in the
presence of Cardinal Law, the nation's senior Catholic
Cardinal Law, who sat in on one listening session and was
briefed on the others, said afterward that some
parishioners had asked him to resign.
There were also questions about the ban on female priests,
about the celibacy of priests and about homosexuality in
But while Cardinal Law said he would take all the questions
to heart, he did not immediately respond to them. "I'm
going to disappoint you once again to say I don't have all
the answers yet for all the questions you have today," he
said in an address at Boston's World Trade Center.
As he has before, Cardinal Law also apologized for his
mishandling of pedophile priests, particularly the case of
John Geoghan, whose conduct has led the church to negotiate
a proposed $30 million settlement on behalf of 86 people
who accuse Mr. Geoghan of sexual abuse.
Instead of resigning, Cardinal Law suggested, "Is there not
the possibility that someone who has been as much a part of
the problem as I have been" to also be "in a position to
bring us where we need to go?"