‘I finally found my voice’ | Scarborough woman sues Portland’s Catholic diocese

WCSH - NBC News Center Maine [Portland ME]

December 1, 2022

By Vivien Leigh

In a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, a Scarborough woman alleges she was sexually abused by a priest in the 1960s.

Ann Allen is the first woman to sue under a 2021 law that removed a time limit for survivors seeking justice in civil court.   

At a news conference, the 64-year-old fought back tears, saying she was ready to come forward with her truth.

“I need to hold the church accountable. … That is critical for my healing, as well,” Allen said.

Allen held up a picture of herself as a child and said she was just 7 years old when she was sexually abused by the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino at St. Peter’s Parish in Portland in the early 1960s. 

Attorneys representing Allen have filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland, seeking unspecified damages.

“Our clients need action to be taken to make sure that these things don’t happen, kids are protected, and victims are healed,” Jessica Arbour, Allen’s attorney of Horowtiz Law, explained. 

Ann said she was a member of a youth group of young girls, who were overseen by Sabatino when the alleged abuse occurred. 

The lawsuit claims Allen and other girls were playing a game of hide and seek when Sabatino led her away by the hand and allegedly sexually abused her in the basement of St. Peter’s church.

Allen, who moved back to Maine after living in California for 35 years, only told her mother and husband about the incident when she was in her 40s. 

“If I can get one person to come forward, find their voice, tell [their story], begin that healing process, then I think I have done some good,” Allen said.

Fifteen years after his death in 1990, Sabatino was one of nine priests publicly named by the diocese in 2005 for abusing children, following an investigation by the Maine Attorney General. Allen said the diocese failed to stop the abuse and alert law enforcement and parishioners about similar allegations against Sabatino, which started as early as 1958.  

Allen is the latest Mainer to sue for abuse under a new law that allows older abuse cases to be heard in civil court. Allen’s attorney Michael Bigos of Berman & Simmons said his team will fully investigate every single case of alleged abuse within the Catholic church in Maine. 

“All the facts of what the Catholic diocese knew and when they knew and how, they failed to protect children,” Bigos explained.

Bigos also represents three men who have filed similar civil lawsuits for abuse they allege happened in parishes across Maine during the 1960s through the ’80s, but there are no updates on their cases as of this time.

If you ever need help, Maine has a 24-hour sexual assault crisis and support line. The number is 1-800-871-7741