January 19, 2005

Bishop wades into public policy

Portland Press Herald

By MARK PETERS, Portland Press Herald Writer

AUGUSTA Bishop Richard Malone, the leader of Maine's 234,000 Roman Catholics, told lawmakers Tuesday that he would support legislation that toughens laws against child sexual abuse, and promised to deal swiftly with priests and others who offend. Malone, in his first policy speech to Gov. John Baldacci and legislators, did not discuss the church's stance on a gay-rights bill that the governor is expected to propose later this year.

But he did say he would work against same-sex marriage, push for improved health care for the poor and try to add a moral dimension to State House debates. ...

Malone gave first priority Tuesday to the sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the church for the past two years. He said tougher new laws would be part of the process the diocese is going through to repair damage caused by abusive priests.

Malone cited no specific legislation, but said he is reviewing a list of proposed bills that are still being drafted and are not ready for debate.

"There are several (bills) that would strengthen the efforts of the state and the church to protect children," Malone said.

The Maine chapter of the Catholic reform group Voice of the Faithful supported Malone's commitment to look at new legislation, but called for him to do more within the church to protect children.

Michael Sweatt, a spokesman for the group, called on the bishop to release the names of former and retired priests suspected of abuse so Mainers know where they live now. Other dioceses have done that, he said.

Posted by kshaw at January 19, 2005 08:54 AM