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Clerical Depravity in Maine

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 28, 2003

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Two months ago the newly appointed Bishop of Norwich, CT, Michael Cote, took some flak because, when he was auxiliary bishop of Portland, ME, he returned Fr. John Harris to ministry after Harris admitted operating the pornographic St. Sebastian's Angels website and, moreover, kept Harris in a parish even after it was known that Harris was guilty of indecency ("nude swimming and hot-tubbing with minors") 20 years earlier. The smoking gun was a photo that showed the naked Harris in the company of a boy. Cote maintained he couldn't take action because, strictly speaking, there was no abuse alleged.

"The difficulty with this case was that a victim never surfaced," Cote wrote. "While the investigation was ongoing, there was only an accusation, but no identified victim. The dilemma for the bishop of Portland was a matter of justice and fairness to the priest," Cote wrote.

The faithful felt otherwise when the news of the photo came out, and in the ensuing uproar Fr. Harris requested and was granted a leave. Shortly afterward, however, a second priest from the Portland Diocese was identified as a St. Sebastian's user. He got a standing "O":

The Rev. Normand Richard's apology to parishioners for his involvement in a Web site for gay priests was met with prolonged applause and a standing ovation Saturday afternoon at Holy Family Catholic Church. ... Richard, who was in the midst of his annual vacation when the news broke last week, returned to the pulpit to read a prepared statement approved by diocesan officials and attorneys.
Fr. Richard, clearly well schooled by superiors and attorneys, took pains to depict his participation in St. Sebastian's Angels as marginal and half-hearted:
Richard told his parishioners Saturday that he got involved with the Web site with "the best of intentions." He said that when the site "deteriorated, I saw a need to remove myself from it completely" before its existence was made public. "I sought reconciliation and forgiveness," the priest said, referring to his confession about his involvement in the Web site. "I have remained faithful ... though my sin has been publicly exposed."

As it happens, we have the opportunity to gauge "the best of intentions" in operation. The Roman Catholic Faithful makes available a SSA message thread on confessing sexual failings to fellow priests -- including this contribution from Fr. Richard:

From: N Richard [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Sent: Monday, September 27, 1999 6:48 PM
Subject: Re: [saintsebastian] confession

As I begin reading the emails on Confession and the need to confess after one has been intimate with a man -- big deal right? This reminds me of an incident years ago. I had gone to confession to a neighboring priest. Of course, I felt comfortable confessing to him because he had made a pass at me. While in confession he asked me who was that guy because he would like to have sex with him. I thought this was interesting at the time. I never gave him the name. Norm

"Big deal right?" Fr. Richard admits matter-of-factly that the confessional is abused by gay priests of his diocese in almost incomprehensibly sacrilegious ways, and then, in a staggering act of cynicism, makes an artfully incomplete, lawyer-crafted annunciation to his parishioners of his desire for "reconciliation and forgiveness." It beggars belief.

Two other facts deserve consideration. First, in 1991 Fr. Richard was "placed on sabbatical and sent away for treatment" as a result of a sexual liaison with a deacon under his supervision. Second, Bishop Michael Cote lived at Richard's parish until he left for Norwich. In fact, the parish website still lists him (erroneously) as in residence there.

It is not believable that Bishop Cote was ignorant of Richard's and Harris's activities and barely believable that he remains unaware of the gay daisy-chain and its sacramental corruption in Portland. How can Cote and his brother bishops continue to offer the faithful this kind of pastor to tend to their salvation? How can they put off the needed surgery -- unless indeed they hate and fear the remedy more than the disease?

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