Diocese Orders Pastor's Tributes Removed

By Betty Adams
Kennebec Journal
October 20, 2009

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has ordered the removal of tributes to a former Winthrop pastor after substantiating sexual abuse complaints against him.

The same day the former Father John J. Curran Bridge in downtown Augusta was renamed, Diocesan officials ordered the name of the Rev. Joseph R. McGowan stripped from memorials or tributes at St. Francis Xavier Church in Winthrop.

Also, the Winthrop council of the Knights of Columbus will remove McGowan's name from their charter at the request of Bishop Richard Malone.

A statement from diocesan officials said the sexual abuse took place between 1936 and 1949 while McGowan was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church. McGowan retired in 1957 and died in 1962 at age 72.

The diocese said the complaints against McGowan were received this summer and later substantiated.

The Legislature voted to rename the Curran bridge after accusations of child sexual abuse surfaced after Curran's death in 1976. The diocese did not deny those accusations. The new name is the Calumet Bridge at Old Fort Western.

A letter from Malone about the complaints was read at Mass on Saturday at St. Francis.

McGowan was born in Rhode Island in 1890 and was ordained in Baltimore in 1920. He served at St. Mary's in Augusta from 1920 to 1925 and was later stationed at Sacred Heart in Portland.

Malone urged anyone sexually abused by a church representative to contact the diocese's office of professional responsibility at 321-7836 or local law enforcement.

Records show McGowan also was one of the priests serving as chaplain at St. Gregory's Boys Camp, a summer camp in Gray.

Barbara Dorris, national outreach director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, praised the diocese for removing public tributes to McGowan and asked for more outreach.

"We hope that the bishop will personally visit every parish where McGowan worked and encourage anyone who has been hurt by a member of the clergy to come forward and get the help they need and deserve," she said in a statement issued on Monday.

"It's never too late to come forward, expose predators and get healing," Dorris added.

Betty Adams -- 621-5631 or


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