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Advocates call for online registry of priests accused of sexual abuse in Maine

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Paul Kendrick of the Ignatius Group protests outside Bishop Richard Malone's house in Falmouth Thursday April 26, 2012.

FALMOUTH, Maine — Two men stood outside the official Falmouth home of Catholic Bishop Richard Malone Thursday morning to protest what they described as Malone’s refusal to publish an updated database of priests and church employees “credibly accused” of sex crimes against children.

The duo, Paul Kendrick and Harvey Paul, represented the Ignatius Group, a loosely knit nationwide network of supporters of victims of the alleged sexual abuses. Kendrick, who spoke to members of the media at the Twin Ponds Drive site Thursday, said he and other group members have demonstrated outside Catholic Church properties repeatedly over the years seeking the creation of a church-run database similar to the state of Maine’s sex offender registry.

Kendrick used the example of Father John Audibert, a Catholic priest who 10 years ago admitted sexually abusing a teenage boy, to illustrate his point. He said the whereabouts of Audibert since his removal from active ministry in 2002 has not been kept public, and that he remains a threat to young people wherever he is.

“Nobody knows where he is, in fact nobody knows what he looks like,” Kendrick said. “He could be living in this neighborhood.”

In a response late Thursday morning, a spokeswoman from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland downplayed the small protest as a publicity stunt. Sue Bernard, communications director for the Diocese, disputed Kendrick’s characterization of Audibert’s whereabouts as being unknown, saying in a statement issued to the Bangor Daily News that the appropriate authorities are aware of his location.

“The two-person protest was nothing more than a ruse to get media attention and unnecessarily attempt to disrupt and alarm a neighborhood,” Bernard said. “Mr. Kendrick is aware that John Audibert does not live in this neighborhood or even in the town of Falmouth. Kendrick, civil officials and neighbors of Audibert are all aware of his background and where he resides.”

But Kendrick argued that the public remains in the dark. He and Paul — who has said he was abused by a Catholic seminarian while a student at St. Mary’s School in Biddeford as a youth — called for a full online database of “credibly accused” priests and church officials, with pictures, work histories, updated home addresses and numbers of accusations against them.

Kendrick said such databases have been launched by Catholic leaders in Boston and Philadelphia, and he said Malone should use those as templates “to improve upon.”

In addition to keeping the public informed, he said, the database could serve as validation for other victims of childhood abuse at the hands of priests who have yet to come forward.

“It just may protect a child, and it just may help someone who was abused as a child release some of that toxicity, some of that shame that’s built up inside,” Kendrick said.

While there was no sign of Bishop Malone himself at the Twin Ponds Drive location, the demonstration attracted the disdain of at least one resident of the high-end neighborhood. A woman driving away from her nearby home slowed down near the protesters and chastised reporters for covering them.

“We don’t need this here,” said the woman, who refused multiple requests to comment further or give her name.

Kendrick called the woman’s reaction “tragic” and “uninformed.”

“The silence of Catholics and that neighbor’s response are not only sad, but shameful,” he told reporters after she drove away. “If she had ever sat and listened to a child talk about being assaulted or raped, she’d never respond like that.”

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