AG Releases Complaint Files on 21 Dead Priests
By Judy Harrison
Bangor Daily News (Maine)
May 28, 2005
Editor's Note: The Bangor Daily News will continue to review the circumstances of individual priests identified in Friday's release of information by the Maine Attorney General, but at this time will not publish the list of priests in its entirety. The newspaper believes it would be inappropriate to publish the names of individuals who have been the subject of unsubstantiated allegations that in most cases can never be proved.
AUGUSTA - The Maine Attorney General's Office on Friday released investigative files containing complaints of sexual abuse against 21 dead priests who worked in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland at the time the alleged abuse occurred.
In a split decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last month ruled 4-3 that the documents be released to the media and the public. The names and information that would identify the alleged victims, their family members and friends were blacked out.
The complaints ranged from a priest's attempt to fondle a boy at the age of 13 to multiple victims stating that priests had touched their genitals to some priests allegedly forcing children to touch their penises.
One victim reported that when she was 6 years old, a priest who visited her in the hospital after she had had an appendectomy moved her to an empty storage room and forced her to perform oral sex on him.
The diocese opposed the release of the information because most of the allegations were never substantiated, some of them were made anonymously and a majority of the priests had died years before the incidents were reported.
In some instances, however, the diocese paid for counseling for the accusers.
"Today is a difficult day for so many people involved," Bishop Richard J. Malone, head of the diocese, said Friday. "I pray that this disclosure will provide a measure of peace for victims who were abused in the past and for their families. I am also concerned for the victims who have dealt with this pain in a quiet way, who have moved on with their lives and who have told us that they would prefer not to be reminded of their ordeal.
"God forbid there are any priests listed who were falsely accused," he continued. "And finally, I hope people will show some compassion for the dozens of wonderful priests ministering today in our diocese who must continue their mission under this horrible cloud."
Most of the alleged incidents were reported in 2002 after the diocese asked victims to come forward. The reported abuse dated back to the 1930s with most of the incidents allegedly occurring in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
The documents included summaries of the allegations against each individual, letters to the diocese from alleged victims and reports from investigators in the attorney general's office. The names of the victims, witnesses and other identifying information were blacked out with some kind of marker by staff in the attorney general's office.
Some documents indicate whether victims accepted the diocese's offering of counseling or not.
A majority of the incidents reported occurred in Portland and Lewiston, but incidents that allegedly occurred in Old Town, Orono, Fort Kent, Millinocket, Pittsfield and Bangor also were reported.
Sixteen of the priests were ordained by the diocese, three belonged to the Dominican order and two were Jesuit priests.
One woman reported to the diocese that the Rev. John Crozier sexually abused her two sons when he was pastor of St. Mary in Orono in the 1970s.
Crozier was assigned to the parish from 1969 to 1981.
The priest allegedly would get one of the boys drunk and take advantage of him a couple of times a week. One of the alleged victims stated that the priest "brought [the boys] to his camp and locked them in different rooms and would go from one to another."
Members of the family received counseling paid for by the diocese.
Allegations against the Rev. James Vallely, who died in 1997, were made public previously.
Five allegations were listed against Vallely including one that occurred while he was a priest at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor in the mid-1950s. Other complaints stemmed from Vallely's assignments at parishes in Portland, South Portland and Sanford.
More than a dozen complaints, all from women, were lodged against the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino. The incidents allegedly took place in the 1960s at parishes in Portland, South Portland and Lewiston when the victims were between the ages of six and 17.
The diocese paid for counseling for several of Sabatino's victims.
Blethen Maine Newspapers, owner of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel newspapers, filed a Maine Freedom of Access request with the attorney general in 2002 seeking records pertaining to the attorney general's investigation of alleged sexual abuse by priests who are deceased.
The attorney general denied the request, saying the release of the records constituted an unwarranted invasion of privacy of the victims, the deceased priests, the priests' families and their former congregations.
In response, Blethen filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court, which concluded that the privacy interests of alleged victims and witnesses were exceeded by the public's interest in disclosure of the information. Rowe appealed Justice Kirk Studstrup's ruling that the files be made public, leaving the outcome in the hands of the supreme court.
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