Six new lawsuits filed against Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland over alleged abuse

WGME-TV, CBS affiliate [Portland ME]

August 14, 2023

By Stephanie Grindley

Ex-parishioners shared their pain and called for accountability Monday, claiming they were sexually abused as children by Roman Catholic clergy stationed throughout Maine.

Attorneys with the law firm Berman and Simmons, along with two childhood abuse survivors, sat down in front of cameras Monday.

“He knew I liked cars, and he had a Trans Am, and you can probably get the gist of what happened,” plaintiff Glen Witham said. “He kind of had that over my head.”

At 14 years old, Witham lived at a boys home in Rumford across the street from the St. Athanasius and St. John Parish.

There, he says he suffered abuse at the hands of Fr. John Harris, starting in 1984.

“I just put everything behind me,” Witham said. “Like 40 years, until I saw this on the news.”

The news was that Maine lifted the statute of limitations in 2021, allowing anyone with a previously expired claim of abuse to now sue.

“The average age when people come forward is 52,” Berman and Simmons Attorney Timothy Kenlan said.

Kenlan says because of the new law, Witham’s story is one of six new cases.

In all, his law firm has brought 30 against the Portland Diocese.

“These represent only a fraction of the cases we have and the cases we intend to bring forward in the coming months,” Kenlan said.

Assignments of Alleged Perpetrators In 30 Cases Filed by Berman & Simmons
As of August 2023


Attorneys say Aroostook County saw many re-assignments.

That is where Robert Rossignol met his alleged abuser, Fr. John Audibert.

“I was twelve years old when this happened. I kind of, put it aside, my mom and dad were devout Catholics,” Rossignol said. “So, I never said anything to them. And my mom passed three years ago. I didn’t even think of this. But when I saw the statute of limitations has changed, I said, ‘Wow, mom’s not here. I can do this.’”

“I know some of the other kids in the group home, he probably did the same thing to them,” Witham said.

Berman and Simmons attorneys say roughly 70 more cases are on the way.

They are now asking for the church to release the list of clergy that complaints were filed against.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland has filed an appeal saying the new law, which removes the statute of limitations, is unconstitutional, and that these claims should only be applied to the clergy who committed the abuse, many of whom are now dead.