Two more alleged victims of sexual assault at Bangor church, school step forward

WCSH - NBC News Center Maine [Portland ME]

December 21, 2022

By Caroline LeCour and Lorraine Muir

The two new complaints now make a total of 13 complaints by attorneys with the law firm Berman and Simmons against the diocese.

BANGOR, Maine — Two more alleged victims have stepped forward, filing a complaint this week against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland for claims of sexual abuse occurring in Bangor in the 1950s and 1960s. 

The plaintiffs asked to remain anonymous, leaving attorneys Michael Bigos and Timothy Kenlan of the law firm Berman and Simmons to represent them. 

“We intend to hold the church fully accountable for the abuse, fully accountable for the cover-up, and fully accountable for the response our client received as a child,” Bigos said.

The first plaintiff claims at age nine they were sexually assaulted by former priest Reverend Monsignor Edward F. Ward of Saint Mary’s in Bangor, who has since died.

The plaintiff was described as loyal to the church and served as an altar server. 

“That trust and loyalty was betrayed by then Monsignor Ward when he abused the plaintiff multiple times,” Bigos said. 

The second plaintiff claims at age seven they were sexually assaulted by now deceased Sister Mary Geraldine Walsh, who worked at St. John Parochial School in Bangor, now known as All Saints Catholic School. 

“He virtually told no one in sixty, sixty-one years,” Kenlan said. “And [plaintiff] is looking forward to having those experiences validated through the court systems.”

In a statement from the Portland Diocese, Bishop Robert Deeley said the following: 

“Diocesan and parish leaders, clergy, employees, and volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure the Church in Maine is a safe environment … We can gratefully say that our diocese’s procedures have created a safer Church here.”

Attorneys say the two alleged victims have come forward thanks in part to the recent liftings of a statute of limitations that went into effect in 2021. The lift now allows survivors of childhood sexual assault to file a civil claim against an abuser, no matter when it allegedly occurred.

Previously, claims could only be pursued dating back as far as 1987. 

“The lifting of the statute of limitations has meant that a wide variety of people have come forward and talking about what happened,” Kenlan said. “Whether that abuse has happened recently or whether it happened decades ago and they could only now seek redress in the justice system.”

The two newly filed complaints now make a total of 13 complaints by attorneys with the law firm Berman and Simmons against the diocese. Attorneys claim the diocese knew about the abuse, failed to prevent it from happening, and failed to warn families. 

“These were completely preventable situations of abuse,” Bigos said. 

The diocese has not responded to the complaint yet.