May 05, 2005

Court ruling forces leaders to ensure public is safe

Portland Press Herald

People seeking legal recourse against church leaders who failed to protect them from child sexual abuse may have a better chance to do so because of a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

On Tuesday, the court ruled that Michael Fortin, a former altar boy and student at St. Mary's in Augusta, can sue both the priest who he claims abused him starting in 1985 and the church itself.

Fortin said that the priest's superiors knew that the Rev. Raymond Melville posed a danger to parishioners and failed to protect them.

The court's ruling will allow Fortin to make that case.

It's a significant ruling because it limits the scope of a 1997 ruling that said the relationship between a bishop and a priest was off-limits to judicial review.

The majority in Fortin's challenge, however, found that because of Fortin's age and involvement in the church, it had a particular duty to protect him. In addition, Justice Jon Levy pointed out that the public interest in preventing sexual abuse of children allowed the government to intervene.

Posted by kshaw at May 5, 2005 07:38 AM