FORT KENT, Maine — Attorneys consulting with the Rev. James L. Nadeau issued a statement Friday declaring that the Maine attorney general’s office investigation of unspecified allegations against the priest do not involve sexual impropriety.
“While we are unable to comment on the substance of the investigation at this time, we can state unequivocally what it is not about,” attorneys Scott G. Hunter of Solman & Hunter in Caribou and Richard S. Berne of the Law Offices of Richard S. Berne LLC in Portland said in the joint release. “We have been informed by the attorney general’s office that the investigation has absolutely nothing to do with anything sexual in nature.”
Late Friday afternoon, Hunter said the statement was released on behalf of Nadeau “in response to the speculation surrounding the initiation of an investigation.”
Nadeau, 50, has been on a voluntary leave of absence from his post as pastor of St. John Vianney Parish since Tuesday, when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the attorney general’s office announced the investigation.
“I can confirm the investigation does not involve sexual impropriety,” Brenda Kielty, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said Friday afternoon. “I cannot comment beyond that on an ongoing investigation.”
Parishioners have rallied around Nadeau since word of his leave broke this week and were welcoming the new information.
“I knew that in my heart,” said Doris Daigle of Fort Kent. “I have been telling everyone around me that all the time it could not be, no way.”
Daigle worked for Nadeau when he served in Fort Kent as a vicar in 1987.
Norma Landry, former chairwoman of the parish council, echoed her sentiments.
“In my heart I knew it had nothing to do with [sexual impropriety],” Landry said Friday. “I would also not want to judge [because] we are all forgiven in our due time.”
Bishop Richard Malone addressed more than 200 members of Nadeau’s parish Wednesday night at St. Louis Catholic Church in Fort Kent before conducting the Mass of the Holy Oils, part of the Holy Week services, stressing their pastor had not been removed from his position.
“The diocese is cooperating fully with the attorney general’s office and at their request, I cannot discuss the allegations or anything about the investigation,” Malone said. “I am hopeful that the process will go smoothly in order to lead to an expeditious and just conclusion.”
Because the attorney general’s office is conducting the investigation, Sue Bernard, spokeswoman for the diocese, said it is appropriate for that office to comment on the nature of that investigation.
“I am glad they feel they can give out some information,” Bernard said Friday afternoon.
In the absence of Nadeau, the diocese assigned Father Robert Vaillencourt, 58, as temporary administrator at St. John Vianney Parish while the investigation continues.
St. John Vianney Parish comprises St. Louis Catholic Church in Fort Kent, St. Mary Catholic Church in Eagle Lake, St. Charles Catholic Church in St. Francis and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Soldier Pond.
Parishioners have held special sayings of the rosary on Nadeau’s behalf each afternoon this week since Wednesday and will hold another at 4 p.m. Monday at St. Louis Catholic Church in Fort Kent.
“Father Nadeau and his family are grateful for the outpouring of love, prayers and support during this difficult time,” Hunter and Berne said in the statement. “He looks forward to returning to his parish and the people he serves as soon as possible.”