Robert M. Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery, a nonprofit charity based in New Jersey that assists victims of sexual abuse, talks about lawsuits in Portland that were filed by six men against the Diocese of Portland on January 5, 2016. The men say they were abused by the Rev. James Vallely, who is now deceased, and that the bishop at the time knew about the allegations and did not notify the public. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has settled a lawsuit for $1.2 million with six sexual abuse victims of a former priest.
Additional details are expected to be released at a press conference late Monday morning at the office of Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of victims of pedophile priests.
The six plaintiffs are all victims of Father James Vallely, a longtime priest in the Bangor area dating back to the 1950s. He is now deceased.
“The diocese hopes that this settlement brings a measure of peace to the people involved,” Diocese spokesman Dave Guthro said in a statement. “The diocese respects the privacy and confidentiality of the victims/survivors involved in cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. We maintain that privacy and confidentiality even if an individual or their legal representation chooses to discuss their situation publicly.”
According to a press release from Garabedian’s office, the Portland diocese, which oversees all Catholic parishes in Maine, had knowledge of multiple accusations of abuse against Vallely but did not remove him from the ministry. Instead, Vallely was transferred to other parishes, including St. Dominic’s in Portland and St. Michael’s in South Berwick.
Garabedian has alleged on behalf of his clients that the diocese was aware of the information for decades but concealed it.
The victims, from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, claim the abuse took place between 1958 and 1977. Some were as young as 8 years old when it started.
Larry Gray is one of the men who were sexually abused by a former Portland priest, James Vallely. Gray was an altar boy in the 1950s and ’60s. 2005 Press Herald staff photo
One of those victims, Lawrence Gray, will speak at Monday’s press conference. Robert Hoatson, a former priest who is now a victim advocate with the New Jersey group Road to Recovery, also will speak.
The settlement was spurred by a letter written in 2005 by another former priest, Richard P. Rice, to the then-Monsignor of the Portland diocese, Marc Caron. Rice wrote that he was aware of allegations against Vallely and that those allegations were brought to the Bishop, Daniel Feeney. Instead of investigating, Feeney transferred Vallely, potentially putting more children at risk.
The six plaintiffs technically could not sue because the statute of limitations had run out. Garabedian, though, said last year that the letter demonstrates “fraudulent concealment,” which under law can reset that statute and allow lawsuits to proceed. He filed a suit in January on behalf of Gray, James Baker of Berwick, Shaun Baker of Eliot, James Tremble of Windham, Paul Battis of Rochester, New Hampshire, and John Battis of Brooklyn, New York.
Garabedian is perhaps the most well known lawyer representing victims of clergy abuse. He was featured prominently in last year’s Academy Award winning movie “Spotlight,” which detailed the Boston Globe’s efforts to uncover widespread abuse within the Catholic Church and attempts to keep it hidden. The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage.
Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement Monday about the settlement.
“We applaud (the victims) 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,” Dorris 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.”
Vallely, a Sanford native, was ordained in Massachusetts in 1949 and served in parishes in many Maine communities starting in 1952. He died on Dec. 12, 1997, at the age of 75 at his winter home in Sun City, Florida.
Guthro said Bishop Robert Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by any 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 by email at: [email protected]
This story will be updated.