Maine Diocese Offers New Details on Priest Suicide

By Associated Press
Boston Herald

July 9, 2008

PORTLAND, Maine - Maineís Roman Catholic diocese said today it received word six months ago about a sexual abuse claim against a priest who committed suicide last month after being notified that he was temporarily suspended.

The Diocese of Portland issued a statement offering additional details about the allegation it received from a religious order in Massachusetts that the Rev. James Robichaud had sexually abused a teenage girl 29 years ago in a parish in Lowell, Mass.

Robichaud, 56, was told of the allegations soon after they were received and was aware that he could face a temporary suspension while the complaint was under investigation, the church said.

Robichaudís body was found June 27 in the rectory of Our Lady of the Snows in Dover-Foxcroft. Police said he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

"At the time of his death, it did not seem appropriate to discuss publicly many details about the complaint and our procedures. It was a time for grieving and we still grieve today about this horrific tragedy," Bishop Richard Malone said.

After getting word of the allegation in January from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the diocese notified civil authorities, tried to contact the woman for further details about her claim and interviewed Robichaud, the churchís statement said.

"Both parties were represented by legal counsel and the diocese was unable to obtain further statements. Since the complaint had a semblance of truth, and the preliminary investigation could not immediately disprove the allegation, Bishop Richard Malone was in the position of having to temporarily suspend Fr. Robichaud from ministry," the statement added.

The diocese said a complaint can usually be processed more quickly, when there is full cooperation by the accuser and the accused.

Robichaud, an Augusta native, served with the Oblates in Massachusetts between 1979 and 2000. The abuse was alleged to have occurred around the time he was ordained in 1979 and assigned to St. Jean-Baptiste Parish in Lowell.

On his return to Maine, Robichaud was named administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover-Foxcroft and St. Francis in Brownville Junction. St. Anne Parish in Dexter was added to his responsibilities in 2005. The three parishes joined in 2007 to become Our Lady of the Snows.

The Oblates said the 1979 complaint was the only one ever received against Robichaud; the diocese said there have been no abuse complaints against him in Maine.


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