Priest Accused of Abuse Dies at 80
Church Officials Defended Raymond Lauzon against Molestation Claims Made against Him in the 1990s
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
September 29, 2005
An 80-year-old priest who was removed from the ministry because of accusations that he sexually abused minors in Maine has died in Lithuania, the Portland Diocese said Wednesday.
Raymond Lauzon died Monday following a brief illness. At Lauzon's request, his funeral and burial took place in Lithuania on Tuesday. Word of his death was sent to the Portland Diocese from the Franciscan Province of St. Casimir in Lithuania.
Lauzon's name surfaced publicly as the Portland Diocese and others around the country confronted a wave of sexual-abuse allegations spanning recent decades.
For 15 years, Lauzon conducted a ministry in a thrift shop in Portland's Old Port. He also was assigned to parishes throughout Maine, and in 1990 he joined a Franciscan monastery in Kennebunk.
During the 1990s, several lawsuits were brought against Lauzon alleging that he had abused children in the 1970s and 1980s. Church leaders, hoping to protect the church from scandal, defended him fiercely and Lauzon denied the allegations.
In one case, Lauzon pleaded guilty to witness tampering and agreed to serve a jail term, but the sex charges were dropped. The diocese settled civil cases in 1997 for amounts that weren't disclosed.
Paul Kendrick, co-founder of Maine's Voice of the Faithful, said the Portland diocese "did everything in their power to avoid the truth."
"The Lauzon case is about secrecy, it's about silence, it's about not telling the truth, it's about not taking responsibility, it's about not being accountable - all at the expense of a group of people who have been sexually abused by him," Kendrick said.
Anthony Matthews said Lauzon repeatedly molested him and his four brothers as they were growing up. In the court file detailing Matthews' case, church officials referred to Matthews as a "vindictive queer."
Matthews repeatedly asked for a meeting with then-Bishop Joseph Gerry and Auxiliary Bishop Michael Cote, but did not get his meeting until 2002. He asked the bishops to write a letter publicly apologizing for what Lauzon did to him and his family, and acknowledging for the first time that Lauzon was a pedophile.
Matthews did get his letter, but the church refused to call Lauzon a pedophile.
The case resurfaced when photographs of Lauzon surrounded by children at his monastery were published in a Lithuanian newspaper. Lauzon had been told in 2000 by the Portland Diocese to have "no public ministry," and thus no contact whatsoever with children.
It is difficult to say, Kendrick said, how much solace Lauzon's death will bring to his victims.
"Lauzon escaped (justice)," Kendrick said. "And he can thank a church leadership . . . who did everything they could to keep him out of prison."
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