Portland Diocese Sued over Alleged Abuse in 1950s Thru 70s
By Susan Sharon
Maine Public Broadcasting
January 5, 2016
Six men, now in their 40s and 50s, have filed separate lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Diocese in Portland alleging that they were sexually abused by the same priest when they were altar boys. The men accuse Father James Vallely of sexual assault and inappropriate sexual conduct as far back as the 1950s and up until the late 1970s in several different parishes in Maine: St. Michael's in South Berwick, St. Dominic's in Portland and St. John's in Bangor.
The lawsuits, filed in Cumberland County Superior Court, were brought by attorney Mitchell Garabedian who represented victims of the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal that is now the subject of the movie Spotlight. Garabedian has previously represented alleged victims of Father Vallely in Maine and says during his last litigation he came across evidence that shows Bishop Daniel Feeney of Portland had knowledge of what was taking place.
"In my last case it was discovered that Bishop Feeney, and this was discovered in a letter, knew in about 1956 that Father Vallely was sexually abusing children; yet he did not warn the public about the sexual abuse. He did not act to protect children," says Garabedian.
Though the alleged abuse is decades old, Garabedian says under Maine law he can bring a cause of action under what's known as "fraudulent concealment," the idea that the Diocese had knowledge that Father Vallely ws a sexual predator and didn't take action to disclose anything to the public until 2009. The statute of limitations in a fraudulent concealment case is six years and Garabedian says he has filed the lawsuits within that window. He says the abuse took place when the boys were between eight and 15 years old.
"One was abused in a car," says Garabedian. "Another was abused at a camp on a lake. Some of them were sexually abused for years."
Garabedian, who says he has represented well over 1,000 victims of allege clergy sexual abuse, says his Maine clients are looking for validation even though Father Vallely died in 1997.
"They're looking to regain their dignity, their self esteem and self respect," he says. "We're asking for the court for money damages and money damages represents validation to the client. The client, as a child, was not at fault for being sexually molested."
Because of the pending litigation, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese said it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.