The leader of Maine’s Roman Catholics has taken the unusual step of threatening to punish an outspoken advocate for people who were sexually abused by priests, possibly by denying him communion.
Paul Kendrick of Freeport has been banned from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, and warned in a letter that if he tries again to contact Portland Bishop Richard Malone he risks losing any right “to participate fully in the sacramental life of the church.”
Kendrick, a co-founder of the Maine chapter of the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, has been a vocal critic of how church leaders have responded to abuse claims and treated victims.
“It’s a not-so-subtle attempt to silence me,” Kendrick said Monday. “My response is that it’s not about me. It’s about protecting children today and helping and supporting those who were abused. He will not silence me from speaking out on those issues.”
Sue Bernard, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Portland, said the bishop doesn’t object to criticism but that Kendrick’s actions have gone far beyond that.
Kendrick has protested outside churches, inundated the diocese with mail and e-mail, participated in a public confrontation with Malone and even showed up at an out-of-state meeting the bishop attended, Bernard said. She called it a campaign of harassment that ultimately could undermine Malone’s ministry.
“For five years, we’ve really looked the other way. The bishop let him have free rein basically but we want him to know that from this point on, he must stop,” she said.
Okay, here’s the missing piece: What is that Kendrick is asking for? What in the diocdesan response (which is nothing) is leaving him dissatisfied? What is he protesting?
The article makes no attempt to address that question. Typical AP. For an answer, you must go to the local press (naturally – and why it’s important for these local papers to live).
Rather, he said, he simply wants Malone to sit down and talk with a woman from Boothbay Harbor named Marie Tupper.
Three years ago, Tupper settled a lawsuit against the diocese. In it, she claimed that when her son was a young child, back in the early 1980s, he was molested by the Rev. Thomas Lee at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Boothbay Harbor.
Lee resigned his priesthood in 2004 after Bishop Joseph Gerry, Malone’s predecessor, announced that complaints of sexual abuse by the priest had been deemed sufficiently credible to forward the case to the Vatican in Rome.
The diocese has never said how many complaints it had against Lee. Tupper said this week that she’s spoken with nine other victims in Boothbay Harbor, where Lee served as pastor from 1971-85, and three at St. Philip Parish in Lyman, which he led from 1985-2004.
After Gerry forwarded Lee’s file to Rome with the request that it be tried by a church court, the Vatican appointed a three-member tribunal of priests with expertise in canon law to examine the case. Earlier this year, the tribunal found that although Lee’s actions were “imprudent,” the allegations that he had sexually abused minors were not proved.
HAS NOT MET WOMAN
In a Dec. 19 statement that was released just before 5 p.m. on a Friday, Malone announced that he would appeal the tribunal’s finding to the Vatican.
“I am stunned and disappointed at the outcome of this case and frustrated that the process has taken so long,” Malone said in a press release. “It has undoubtedly been difficult for the families involved.”
What Malone did not say in the release was that he has yet to meet with Marie Tupper.
Diocesan spokeswoman Bernard said Malone has invited Tupper to meet with Dubois, the vicar general, and Paul Falconer, chairman of a diocesan board that reviews sexual-abuse claims. The sole reason Malone has not met with Tupper, Bernard said, is Paul Kendrick, who has been Tupper’s primary spokesman these past several years.
“He does not feel comfortable sitting down with people who have such a close association with Paul,” Bernard said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Bernard said the diocese’s concerns were heightened again this month when Kendrick, Tupper and Harvey Paul, another victims advocate, confronted Malone with a video camera while the bishop was entering an Old Port bar to meet with a group of young Roman Catholic adults.
The bishop asked for and received a police escort past the trio, who peppered him with questions as he walked by, Bernard said.
Bernard said that tactic was typical of Kendrick, who “keeps victims in a place of anger. We try to reach out – we truly try to do that. But that’s not what he’s about.”
Contacted at her home Monday, Tupper called Bernard’s comments “absurd.”
“I’m my own person – I’m very much my own person,” Tupper said, noting that it was she who reached out to Kendrick, not the other way around, after her son first told her of the abuse, in 2002.
Tupper said the offer of a meeting with Dubois, the vicar general, was “an insult.” She tried for months to contact Dubois seeking an update of the Lee case, she said, but her messages went unanswered.
“The issue is that (the diocese) never wanted to have anything to do with the victims,” Tupper said. “They never have.”
Update, from a Reader on the Ground (in the comments)
A couple of “local” points. I am writing from Maine and am a regular reader of the Press Herald. I can assure you that Bill Nemitz, the columnist to whom you are linking, is hardly an objective observer when it comes to the Catholic Church, or any other institution that smacks of “tradition.” Readers of your blog should not assume they’re getting the straight story, as Bill is notorious around here for his slant.
I’ve had extensive conversations with others who have encountered Paul Kendrick, and, as near as I can determine, he’s a bit unhinged, to put it mildly. I have no knowledge of Mrs. Tupper or her contentions, but my sense has long been that Bishop Malone is doing all he can to deal consistently, fairly, and proactively with these cases.
Bill Nemitz, however, should always be taken with a huge grain of salt. He has a weekly column and is not on the reporting staff. As a result, he makes hardly a nod toward objectivity.