6 Men Claim Maine Catholic Diocese Concealed Report about Abusive Priest
By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News
January 5, 2016
Six men who claim they were sexually abused between 1956 and 1977 by the Rev. James Vallely, who is now deceased, have sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland claiming the bishop at the time knew the priest was abusive and fraudulently concealed it.
The complaints, dated Nov. 20, 2015, were filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, according to Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston attorney representing them. They were filed with the court three days later, according to the clerk’s office.
The men are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. The Bangor Daily News is not naming them because they may be victims of sexual abuse.
Four of the victims alleged in the complaints that Vallely sexually abused them when he was a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church in South Berwick. Another alleged it took place at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Portland, when Vallely served there, and the sixth claimed the abuse occurred in 1969 when Vallely said Mass at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor as a visiting priest while assigned to the parish in Machias.
Dave Guthro, spokesman for the diocese, declined Tuesday in an email to comment on the pending litigation.
“As always, [current] Bishop [Robert] Deeley encourages anybody who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authorities and Michael Magalski, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland,” Guthro said.
Gerald Petruccelli, the Portland attorney who represents the diocese in abuse cases, said Tuesday that he received the complaints by email Monday and could not comment on the allegations because he had not yet reviewed them.
The diocese previously acknowledged there were credible abuse allegations against Vallely.
The diocese said in 2005 that Vallely would have been fired if he had lived. Vallely died on Dec. 12, 1997, according to Guthro.
The lawsuits cite a 2005 letter, made public in April, that allegedly proves that Bishop Daniel J. Feeney, now deceased, knew as early as 1956 that Vallely was sexually abusing children. Feeney served as bishop from 1955 until his death in 1969, according to the diocesan website.
The handwritten letter, dated July 20, 2005, was written on stationery for St. Mary’s School in Bath. It was signed by the Rev. Richard P. Rice and is addressed to “Marc.”
Marc is believed to be the Rev. Marc Caron, who was co-chancellor of the diocese in 2005, according to a previously published report.
Rice is retired but continues to say Mass in All Saints Parish, which includes churches in Bath and the Boothbay Peninsula, according to information posted on the parish website.
The letter referenced a conversation Rice says he had with the Rev. Richard Harvey, who died in January 2005. Harvey served at St. John’s Church in Bangor from 1951 until 1967, according to a previously published report. News of Vallely’s alleged abuse became public in 1993, according to the letter.
Rice wrote that his conversation with Harvey occurred “sometime later.”
Rice said in the letter that Harvey told him of a conversation he had with Feeney many years before about Vallely’s alleged abuse of children but did not specify a date when the conversation with the bishop took place.
“‘Jim [Vallely] is in denial,’” Harvey is quoted as saying in the letter. “He then paused and finally said, ‘… there were 1, 2, 3, 4, no, 5 boys who had confided to [Harvey] of their abuse at St. John’s. He then told me, when Bishop Feeney arrived for confirmation, [Harvey] asked him to walk with him on York St. and told him about this. Within a very brief time, Jim Vallely was transferred. I do not know the years, but such a transfer would indicate the time.’”
Vallely was transferred in 1956 from St. John’s to St. Dominic Catholic Church in Portland, according to Garabedian.
Rice concluded his letter with: “I write this to you so that if any young men from St. John’s at that period were in touch with the Diocese, this conversation with Dick Harvey might help validate their truthfulness and need.”
Garabedian said Tuesday that under the state’s fraudulent concealment law, his clients had six years to sue the diocese after the diocese released the letter. The attorney said it was given to him in early December 2009 during discovery involving a different case.
Vallely began his career in Maine as an associate at St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Waterville. He served for two months in 1953 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Bangor, and then for three years at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor, just before going to St. Dominic Catholic Church in Portland. At St. John’s, he was spiritual director of the junior praesidium, and also for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, which included catechism classes for public school children, adult study clubs and a parent-educator program.
Vallely served at St. Dom’s as associate pastor for 11 years, from 1956 to 1967. After leaving there, Vallely served as temporary administrator at St. Louis Catholic Church in Limestone from 1967 to 1968, then was pastor at Holy Name Catholic Church in Machias for six years before moving to his final pastorate at St. Michael Catholic Church in South Berwick. He retired from the parish on June 30, 1988, after serving there for 14 years.
To reach Magalski to report sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative, call 321-7836 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org , Guthro said.