WMTW-TV, ABC-8 [Portland ME]
December 1, 2022
By Jim Keithley
Ann Allen, 65, of Scarborough has filed a civil complaint in Cumberland County Court claiming that the Roman Catholic Church ignored allegations of child sex abuse at the hands of one of its clergy members. She is seeking monetary damages.
Allen becomes the first female to file a civil lawsuit against the church since the laws in Maine changed in 2021, lifting any statute of limitations.
“I’m doing this to let people know that it’s never too late to tell and it’s never too late to heal,” said Allen.
During a press conference in her lawyer’s office in Portland, Allen said the church did not protect her or other children from a predator-priest when she was a child growing up in Portland in the 1960s. She said that she and her family were avid churchgoers and members of St. Peter Roman Catholic Church, located at 72 Federal Street in Portland.
“I need to hold the church accountable. That’s critical to my healing as well. I want the church to be the safe place that it should have been for me,” Allen said.
As she held a picture of her First Communion when she was seven years old, Allen said that’s when the sexual abuse began. She said she and the other girls would play games in the basement of the church with Reverend Lawrence Sabatino. Those games, she said, included “hide-and-seek.”
“I’m not sure that I will ever forgive the violent assault that I suffered as a seven-year-old child, but I will be able to live with it,” Allen said.
The suit alleges that Sabatino would pick one girl to hide with and sexually abuse that child, while the others were nowhere to be seen.
Similar allegations surfaced when Sabatino was serving at St. Patrick Church in Lewiston in 1958. The family of a six-year-old girl filed a complaint. Sabatino was reassigned to Portland that same year. Sabatino was publicly named in 2005 as a known sexual abuser of children following an investigation by the Maine Attorney General’s office.
Lawyers filing the civil suit Thursday said they want the church to be held accountable.
“They warned no one. They told no one about the allegations,” said Jessica Arbour, one of the lawyers on the case.
“They failed to properly supervise him, and they gave him access. He wasn’t just the big bad wolf in a game; he was the wolf who had the keys to the hen house,” she said.
As Allen glanced down at her First Communion picture during Thursday’s press conference, she said: “I look at my eyes. I look at my eyes and I see a hopelessness. I see a damaged child, that’s what I see.”
The lawsuit said Sabatino was assigned to seven different parishes during his tenure with the Catholic Diocese. He died in 1990 at the age of 65.
Allen had a message for other survivors.
“Please find your voice. Please tell someone, anyone and then get on that road to having a better life,” Allen said.
The Portland Catholic Diocese has said it does not comment on pending litigation, but Allen’s lawyers said to look for several more cases to be filed in the coming weeks.