Maine diocese finds sexual abuse allegations against 2 priests are credible

Bangor Daily News [Bangor ME]

January 31, 2022

By lia russell

f you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has found recent complaints credible that allege two priests, including one who served in Bangor in the 1970s, sexually abused children in the 1950s and 1970s.

The diocese received the complaint against Renald Hallee, who served as a priest at St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor between 1970 and 1973, in 2020. It alleged that he had sexually abused a high school student when he was a priest sometime in the 1970s. The diocese did not specify dates or location.  

Hallee served as a priest in Fort Kent after his time in Bangor.

The other complaint, which the diocese received in 2021, involved Eugene Descombes, a Canadian priest who died in 1980. It alleged that he sexually abused a minor in the mid-1950s during a trip to Canada.

Descombes served in Maine during the summer for several years. The Archbishop of Quebec was also notified about the complaint and substantiated investigation, the Portland diocese said.

A diocese review board that advises Bishop Robert Deeley on reports of clergy sexual abuse against children recommended that bishop find the complaints against Hallee and Descombes substantiated.

Deeley accepted the board’s recommendation and quietly published its decision in a Jan. 21 notice on its website.

Hallee left the priesthood and Maine in 1977 and retired in 2007 as a school teacher in Massachusetts.

The 2020 complaint against Hallee was not the first accusing him of sexual abuse.

In 2010, a Portland woman accused him of sexually abusing her during his time at St. John’s, though the Maine Supreme Judicial Court later barred her from suing him due to the state’s statute of limitations. Lawmakers overturned that limit this past October. The woman settled her suit against the Diocese.

The complaints were referred to the diocesan victim assistance office, and law enforcement were also contacted, the diocese said.