Suit alleges sexual abuse at religious retreats in Bucksport and Bar Harbor decades ago

The Ellsworth American [Ellsworth, ME]

January 17, 2023

By Jennifer Osborn

An unnamed Oregon woman, “Jane Doe,” who lived in a Catholic orphanage in Massachusetts in the 1950s, has filed a federal civil suit against the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate alleging sexual abuse by priests during Oblate-run retreats in Bar Harbor and Bucksport when she was a young child.

The Missionary Oblates describe themselves as a congregation of Roman Catholic priests and brothers who serve the poor and needy in the U.S. and in 70 countries around the world. The Oblates did not respond to an email inquiry for comment before press time.

The Maine Legislature in June of 2021 lifted a statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases, which is allowing the case of “Jane Doe” and a dozen others to move through the Maine civil court system.

The lifting of the statute of limitations allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file suit against their accused no matter the age of the case.

Berman & Simmons attorney Michael Bigos represents a dozen such plaintiffs against four members of the clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and one teacher/confirmation officer.

Bigos filed the first suit shortly after the statute of limitations was lifted in 2021.

“Each case outlines the abuse of power by priests against minors in Biddeford, Westbrook and Old Town,” Bigos wrote in a press release. “The assaults that form the basis for the complaints occurred in a variety of venues in Maine, including at churches, over decades, stemming from 1961 to the 2000s. The suits also demonstrate that the Maine diocese knew about rampant sexual abuse by its priests for decades and chose to not stop it.”

“Jane Doe” has filed her case in the U.S. District Court in Bangor. Other cases have been filed in Cumberland, Penobscot and York counties.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Catholic Diocese in December filed a motion to dismiss both the Jane Doe case and the others on the grounds that the Legislature didn’t have the right to remove the statute of limitations, according to the Portland Press Herald. Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon will hear arguments on that matter in the Maine Business Court at the end of January.

Dave Guthro, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said the diocese does not comment on pending or possible litigation.

However, Guthro did outline action that the diocese has been taking to protect young people.