SCARBOROUGH — More than 50 Catholics turned out Monday night for a community “healing session” in Scarborough, one day after Bishop Robert Deeley stunned some church members by revealing that a high-ranking priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland started a relationship with a female church employee before he retired in July.

The meeting, which was held to talk about the actions of Monsignor Michael Henchal, who hid an affair with a former parish administrator, took place at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, a large, modern building on Black Point Road.

Henchal had been pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Cape Elizabeth since 1997. As the diocese consolidated parishes in response to dwindling numbers of priests and active members, he took on additional duties as pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough in 2006 and St. John and Holy Cross parishes in South Portland in 2008.

Members of the news media were not allowed to attend Monday’s meeting. A reporter was eventually asked to leave the church property by a diocesan staff member, who said that because of the sensitive nature of the healing session, the diocese did not want attendees to be “intimidated” by the press.

Although the church grounds are typically open to the public, the official’s request was consistent with a statement released before the meeting by Dave Guthro, spokesman for the diocese.

“Media will not be allowed. This is a private meeting for parishioners, crisis intervention team members, parish staff and the bishop,” Guthro said in an email. “It is private to ensure participants can speak freely. Please respect this community’s healing process.”

One woman became incensed when asked as she entered the church to react to news that Henchal had been having a secret affair. The woman said the press was out of line in publishing stories about Henchal on the front page. No one else who was asked about Henchal wanted to speak on the record about his situation.

Deeley made headlines Sunday after visiting churches in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland over the weekend and informing members about their former longtime pastor’s affair.

Deeley said he was aware of “many stories and rumors circulating” about Henchal and that he was “here to share the facts as I know them.”

“Since his retirement in July, Monsignor Henchal has been living with Kathy Jones, the former life coordinator for this cluster,” Deeley said in a statement Sunday, referring to the cluster of churches in Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough and South Portland. “It is now painfully apparent that this relationship began while they were working together here in this cluster.

“This situation is untenable and inconsistent with the promises Michael made at his ordination,” Deeley continued. “As we all know, priesthood is a vocation, not simply a profession. This vocation includes perpetual celibacy.”

Celibacy among Roman Catholic priests is a prerequisite to ordination and must be freely assumed and maintained for life.

The Press Herald has attempted to reach Henchal since Sunday without success. Henchal and Jones are believed to be living in Texas.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]