BELFAST, Maine — The priest of a midcoast parish that stretches from Belfast to Rockland has been placed on temporary administrative leave pending an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor girl in the 1980s.
The Rev. Robert C. Vaillancourt, a Lewiston native, is the pastor of St. Brendan the Navigator Parish. He has denied any wrongdoing and indicated he will cooperate with any investigation into the matter, according to the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland.
“The temporary administrative leave is not a presumption of guilt or a result of suspected wrongdoing, but is the protocol followed by the diocese,” Dave Guthro, communications director for the diocese, said. “It is for the purpose of preserving the integrity of the process. Public authorities have also been notified of the allegation.”
The Rev. Paul Stefanko has been appointed temporary administrator of the parish, which includes St. Francis of Assisi Church in Belfast, St. Mary of the Isles Churches on Islesboro, Vinalhaven and North Haven, Our Lady of Good Hope Church in Camden and St. Bernard Church in Rockland.
Vaillancourt, often called Father Bob, previously led the Maine delegation to World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, the last time Pope John Paul II visited North America before his death. On that trip, 350 young people and their chaperones went to see the Pope.
Prior to being appointed the leader of the St. Brendan the Navigator Parish, Vaillancourt served as a hospital chaplain at Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital, both in Portland, with weekend duties at the Parish of the Holy Eucharist in Falmouth. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1982.
Over the years, he has served at parishes in Biddeford, Madawaska, East Millinocket, Old Town, Hampden, Winterport and Rumford. He also has served as diocesan director of the Office of Vocations and the youth ministry at different times.
An internal investigation is underway, with the rights of both the person making the accusation and the individual accused protected, according to the diocese. No updates will be provided during the investigation, and findings will be presented to a review board, which is made up of business and community leaders who have been selected for independence, fairness and expertise in fields including psychiatry and law enforcement, the diocese said.
The diocese encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact authorities and Michael Magalski, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at 207-321-7836 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.