PORTLAND, Maine — A retired Catholic priest who was found not guilty in 1994 by a Washington County jury of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl has been stripped by the Vatican of his ability to function as or to present himself as a priest, the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland announced Friday.
“The Holy See has dismissed Antonin R. Caron from the clerical state for a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor,” the diocese said in a news release. “The complaint was received from an individual in November of 2012 who reported that the sexual abuse occurred in the early 1980s.”
In the 1994 trial, according to a previously published report, Caron was accused of sexually assaulting the girl with a pencil and his hands on May 9, 1992, in the sacristy — a small, open room behind the altar — in St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Baileyville, where he was parish priest, moments before the start of a Saturday afternoon Mass.
The girl, who is not being identified, waited a year before reporting the incident to a teacher, who then notified authorities. Despite parishioners being seated only a few feet away from the room, there were no witnesses to corroborate the girl’s story.
Caron retired to Lewiston after the trial and gave up all public ministry in 2010, according to the diocese.
“After receiving the complaint, the Diocesan Office of Professional Responsibility conducted a full investigation and, as with every report of possible sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative, immediately notified public authorities,” the diocesan release said. “Upon completion of the investigation, the case was referred to the Diocesan Review Board, an independent review entity comprised mostly of lay people, which confirmed the findings of the Office of Professional Responsibility that the claim of abuse was substantiated.
“Subsequently, Bishop Robert P. Deeley sent Caron’s case to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has competence to determine the course of action to be taken in such cases,” the release continued. “The diocese investigates all allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. The removal of any church personnel from ministry due to such complaints is always publicized.”
Caron was born in Lewiston and ordained to the priesthood in 1969. During his time in active ministry, he was assigned to Notre Dame Parish in Waterville, St. Margaret Parish in Old Orchard Beach, St. Mary Parish in Lewiston, St. Mary Parish in Presque Isle, St. Michael Parish in South Berwick, Cathedral Parish in Portland, St. Ignatius Parish in Sanford, Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Mechanic Falls, St. Gregory Parish in Gray, St. Mary Parish in Eagle Lake and St. James Parish in Woodland.
Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about this or any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authorities, as well as Michael Magalski, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at 321-7836 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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