October 21, 2019
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Maine Catholic diocese pays $1.2 million to 6 victims of abusive priest

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Robert M. Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery Inc., a New Jersey-based nonprofit charity that assists victims of sexual abuse and their families, speaks to the media last year outside the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland's chancery on Ocean Avenue Tuesday morning about a 2005 letter he said shows that Maine'’s bishop knew in 1956 a priest was sexually abusing boys at a Bangor church.

PORTLAND, Maine — Six men who were sexually abused by the late Rev. James Vallely while growing up in Maine have reached a settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland totaling $1.2 million, the diocese and a Boston attorney announced Monday.

The settled claims involved abuse dating from the 1950s to the 1970s. The victims had filed separate lawsuits in November in Cumberland County Superior Court that sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

One of the victims, Dr. Lawrence Gray, 68, a chiropractor from Scarborough, appeared at the Boston news conference announcing the settlement. The Bangor Daily News does not identify victims of sexual abuse unless they make clear they do not object to being named.

Gray said in a telephone interview Monday that he was an altar boy at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church in Portland when he was abused by Vallely between 1958 and 1960. Gray added that he turned down a settlement offer in 1994 because it included “a gag order.”

“I speak regularly, openly and as often as I can,” Gray said. “Fifty or 60 years ago, we didn’t talk about it at all. Now, we have to tell the story so that it doesn’t keep happening.”

Gray declined to specify how the settlement money was divided.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who handled this case and had successfully sued the Archdiocese of Boston on behalf of victims of clergy sexual abuse, said Monday afternoon that the victims in this case decided how the settlement would be divided but declined to give specifics. Garabedian also declined to say how much of the $1.2 million went to legal fees.

Technically, the victims could not sue the diocese after the six-year statute of limitations expired. Because of a church letter that surfaced in 2015, the lawsuit instead was brought under the fraudulent concealment statute, according to Garabedian. The victims had until 2021 to sue under that law.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, on Monday issued a statement praising the victims for suing.

“We applaud them for being smart enough to unite, brave enough to share their pain, wise enough to consult attorneys and strong enough to endure a long process of justice, prevention and healing,” she said. “Their success should deter would-be wrongdoers and inspire suffering victims. And we call on Maine church officials to post on church websites the names, whereabouts and work histories of all proven, admitted or credibly accused child-molesting clerics in the state.”

Four of the victims said in their complaints that Vallely sexually abused them when he was a priest at St. Michael Catholic Church in South Berwick. A fifth said he was assaulted in 1969 when Vallely was at St. John Catholic Church in Bangor as a visiting priest while assigned to the parish in Machias.

The lawsuits that led to the settlement claimed that the late Bishop Daniel J. Feeney knew as early as 1956 that Vallely was sexually abusing children. The complaints cited a letter from a now retired priest to a diocesan official that referenced Feeney’s apparent knowledge of Vallely’s abuse of children.

Feeney served as bishop from 1955 until his death in 1969, according to the diocesan website.

The diocese previously acknowledged there were credible abuse allegations against Vallely. The diocese said in 2005 that Vallely would have been fired if he were still alive.

“The diocese 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,” Dave Guthro, spokesman for diocese, said in an email Monday.

“As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about 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 (207) 321-7836 or at michael.magalski@portlanddiocese.org,” Guthro said.

To reach a sexual-assault victims’ advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest assistance.



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