PORTLAND, Maine — 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.
Paul Kendrick of Freeport has been banned from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 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 Catholic 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 she said Kendrick’s actions have gone far beyond that.
Kendrick has protested outside of churches, inundated the diocese with mail and e-mail, and recently confronted Malone in Portland’s Old Port, 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.
Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duquesne Law School, said bishops across the country have been the targets of similar aggressive tactics. But he said he’d never heard of a bishop using church law, in this case the threat of an “interdict,” against activists.
“It’s extremely unusual,” said Cafardi, who had been an original member of the National Review Board, the lay panel the U.S. bishops created in 2001 to monitor their response to the abuse scandal.
Kendrick got word of the potential penalty after he told the bishop in a letter that he planned to attend Christmas Eve Mass. The activist then received a criminal trespass order that barred him from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland, the chancery and Malone’s residence. He also was served an order to cease and desist from harassing Malone.
In a letter, the vicar general, the Rev. Andrew Dubois, further warned Kendrick of church-imposed penalties if he fails to abide by terms of a church order, which forbids Kendrick from coming within 500 feet of the bishop or of being in the same building when he’s present.
The Rev. Tom Doyle, a priest and advocate for victims who is representing Kendrick, said the church has threatened to prevent Kendrick from receiving Holy Communion if he doesn’t comply. There has been no threat of excommunication, which would be the ultimate penalty, Doyle said.
Doyle, who works from Virginia, said he can’t find any basis for the diocese’s actions, but he said church leaders have been angered by the aggressive tactics of some activists. Doyle’s work with abuse victims cost him a promising career as a canon lawyer in the church.
“One of the biggest sins in the Catholic Church is to criticize a bishop,” Doyle said.
Paul Kellen of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition described Kendrick as a committed Christian whose heart is in the right place.
“Just sitting back and saying, ‘This is too bad,’ is not enough. The point is if you call yourself a Christian, then you’re called to get off your butt and do something,” said Kellen, of Medford, Mass., who has protested outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.