PORTLAND, Maine — A man who says he was abused by a priest has no legal argument to compel the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland to pay for his psychological counseling, a Maine judge has ruled.

David Gagnon, formerly of Biddeford, sued the Portland diocese in small claims court when it avoided paying his $875 counseling bill.

Gagnon, 54, says he was abused by a priest for more than five years when he was a teenager in the 1980s. He reported the abuse to church officials in 1991. Bishop Joseph Gerry issued a letter in 2002 saying that survivors of clergy sexual abuse would be reimbursed for counseling.

A judge ruled Thursday that Gerry’s letter wasn’t legally binding and the diocese could not be compelled to pay Gagnon’s bill, The Portland Press Herald reported.

Gagnon, who now lives in Montreal, is one of 126 individuals who have had counseling paid for through the diocese to date, according to a spokesman for the Portland diocese.

The church requires that any follow-up counseling sessions be reviewed by the church’s independent clinician to make sure that they are related to abuse.

Gagnon instead found his own independent clinician because, he said, the church shouldn’t have that much control over his recovery process.

“They want to impose a specific healing process on an abuse survivor and that’s not how it works,” said Gagnon.

Gerald Petruccelli, the attorney who represented the diocese against Gagnon, said he was disappointed that the dispute went so far.

“The church has a system in place (for reimbursing) and he didn’t want to oblige,” Petruccelli said. “That was unfortunate.”

He added that Gagnon has been paid for 170 counseling sessions over nearly 30 years and received a financial settlement from the church when he first came forward.

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