May 11, 2005

Victim has control this time

Portland Press Herald

Bill Nemitz

Sometime in the coming months, Michael Fortin will have a big decision to make.

Propelled by last week's Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision that clears a path through the legal thicket so he can sue the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Fortin can have his day in court and watch everyone from former Bishop Joseph Gerry on down explain how one of their priests - the Rev. Raymond Melville - managed to get his hands on Fortin 20 years ago at St. Mary's Parish in Augusta.

Or Fortin can accept an all-but-certain settlement offer from the diocese, declare victory over the church's circle-the-wagons legal strategists and, at long last, get on with his life. His legacy would remain intact: Without Fortin, the diocese would still be lawsuit-proof thanks to a 1997 court ruling (in a nonsexual case involving a priest and a married couple) that protected it from being held accountable for the actions of its pedophile priests.

"The impetus behind this suit was to change the law," said Sumner Lipman, Fortin's attorney. "If a reasonable settlement is made, I don't think because of (Fortin's) desire for a trial that he's going to turn it down."

Meaning it's too soon to tell whether Gerry, now in retirement at St. Anselm's College in Manchester, N.H., will have to come back to Kennebec Superior Court in Augusta, raise his right hand and start answering questions that have yet to be asked in open court anywhere in Maine about what he knew, when he knew it and, most importantly, what he did or didn't do about it.

Posted by kshaw at May 11, 2005 06:03 PM