Portland Diocese Settles Over Hierarchical Sex Abuse Cover-Up

News: Crisis in the Church
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by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 16, 2016   

Fr. James Vallely was allegedly protected by Portland's bishop for years

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PORTLAND (ChurchMilitant.com) - A settlement has finally been reached in the case of a decades-old hierarchical cover-up of abusive clergy.

In a deal reached August 15 between the diocese of Portland, Maine and a group of plaintiffs, the diocese agreed to pay out $1.2 million to six men who allege they were sexually abused by Fr. James Vallely throughout the 1950s and 1970s. According to documents obtained by the prosecution, the diocese and then-Bp. Daniel Feeney had been made aware of the abuse, but took no action regarding Fr. Vallely. 

"There is no excuse for this immorality," asserts Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents the plaintiffs and gained nationwide recognition for handling the homosexual priest abuse scandal in Boston in 2002. "Once again, you have purportedly the most moral institution in the world acting most immorally." 

"You know, you've got to shine a light on the cockroach in the corner ... is about the only way I can say it," maintains one of the alleged victims, who contends Fr. Vallely molested him regularly over a period of approximately four years.  

The settlement pertains to a lawsuit, filed in November, which mentions a 2005 letter that reportedly confirms Bp. Feeney was made aware of the molestations as early as 1956. The letter is addressed to one believed to be the Rev. Marc Caron, co-chancellor of the diocese in 2005, and discusses a conversation between the letter's signatory, Rev. Richard P. Rice, and the Rev. Richard Harvey, now deceased. Harvey, who served as pastor of St. John Catholic Church in Bangor from 1951 to 1967, revealed to Rice a conversation he'd had with Bp. Daniel Feeney, who led the diocese of Portland during the time of the alleged abuse cases. 

According to the letter, "[T]here were one, two, three, four, no, five boys who had confided to [Harvey] of their abuse at St. John's. He then told me, when Bp. Feeney arrived for confirmation, [Harvey] asked him to walk with him on York Street and told him about this. Within a very brief time, Jim Vallely was transferred."

The transfer from St. John's in Bangor occurred in 1956, according to Garabedian.

"I write this to you," concludes Rice in the letter, "so that if any young men from St. John's at that period were in touch with the diocese, this conversation with Harvey might help validate their truthfulness and need." 

"James Vallely was a serial pedophile," Garabedian maintains. "He had no boundaries."

Vallely, who died in 1997, never faced criminal charges related to sex abuse. 

Despite the plaintiffs being well into their 50s and 60s, Maine's fraudulent concealment law permits the victims to sue despite the statute of limitations having run out, as the recent concealment of the letter effectively resets the statute.

Speaking to the settlement, a spokesman for the diocese states current hierarchy "hopes that this settlement brings a measure of peace to the people involved."

"The diocese respects the privacy and confidentiality of the victims/survivors involved in cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics," the official statement concluded. "We maintain that privacy and confidentiality even if an individual or their legal representation chooses to discuss their situation publicly."

The alleged victims expressed their satisfaction with the outcome, with one remarking, "I told some friends that, when we started this a few weeks ago, we were going out to slay a very large dragon, and I said, well, you know, maybe we can't slay a dragon this big, but we did knock a few scales off of him."

 

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