Fr. Laurent Laplante is stepping down as pastor of St. Martha's Parish, Kennebunk pending an investigation into an allegation that he had improper contact with a minor. A high school girl recently reported that six years ago, when she was nine years old, Fr. Laplante touched her pants on the knee and inner thigh. Fr. Laplante has denied any wrongdoing and has indicated he will cooperate with the diocese in its investigation.
The Diocese immediately reported the allegation to public authorities. Bishop Richard Malone has spoken personally with the family, and the diocese has offered its support and counseling.
Fr. Laplante's temporary removal from public ministry is for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the process, to give potential witnesses the greatest freedom and to fulfill the church's commitment to protect children.
Bishop Malone was on hand for Mass at St. Martha's Saturday afternoon to personally provide this information to parishioners.
The Bishop requested prayers for everyone involved. "My concerns are to seek the truth, to be of support to this young lady and her family, to leave no doubt about our commitment to protect children and to deal with Father fairly and compassionately."
The Bishop went on to urge anyone with information on this case, or who has been abused by a priest or Church representative, to make a report to diocesan authorities.
A crisis response team will be available for parishioners after all Masses this weekend.
Fr. LaPlante is 74 years old and was ordained in 1957. He served at St. Ignatius, Northeast Harbor in 1957; later that year he served at St. Charles, Brunswick. From 1959 to 1967 he served at St. Theresa Parish, Mexico. He was Religious Education Associate Director for the Diocese from 1967 to 1972. From there he served at St. Matthew Parish, Hampden until 1978 when he became pastor at St. Margaret Parish, Old Orchard Beach. In 1983 he was named pastor of St. Matthew, Limerick; and in 1989 he served as pastor of St. Andre Parish, Biddeford until his most recent assignment in Kennebunk beginning in 1995.
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