Diocese of Portland Priest Returned To Ministry, SNAP has concerns
(For Immediate Release July 27, 2022)
Portland, Maine priest. Fr. Robert Vallancourt is being returned to active ministry following the end of a year-long examination. In the 1980s, two complaints of sexual assault of adolescent girls were ruled to be unsubstantiated by the Diocese of Portland. The diocese has not yet assigned Vaillancourt to a new assignment.
The diocese released this in their statement. ‘In July of 2021, upon receipt of the first complaint and in accordance with diocesan policy, Fr. Vaillancourt was placed on administrative leave. The announcement of the administrative leave and investigation was distributed to all parishes in the diocese, publicized on the diocesan website and social media platforms, and issued to media outlets throughout the state, encouraging people to come forward with relevant information. Subsequently, a second allegation against Fr. Vaillancourt was received through an attorney representing a second woman. Civil authorities were notified of the allegations, and state law enforcement conducted investigations over the past year.’
The dismissed allegations against Fr. Vallencourt still have us concerned. We know that false allegations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare, and we stand with the two women who stepped forward with courage. We hope they get the help they need and have guidance in their journey to healing.
Maine passed a new law to allow victims who suffered sexual abuse their day in court. Claims that were previously expired are revived. Adults of all ages who were abused as children can now file lawsuits for child sex abuse; this law went into effect starting on October 18, 2021, even if their claim expired under the prior law.
We can’t help but think that the timing of civil claims appearing on docket calendars in New York, New Jersey, California, and Maine is playing a part in accused clergy being cleared by their employers and placed back into ministry. To us, this tactic depicts that church investigations are doing their part ahead of a defendant’s answer to civil claims and exchange of discovery. Church officials and their attorneys want to eliminate potential victims from coming forward, all for self-preservation. We know the truth sits with survivors, and discovery is often in hidden church Canon 489 files.
We call on Bishop Deeley to adhere to the Church’s pledge of transparency and to provide specific details regarding all the accusations against Fr. Vallencourt, so that parishioners and the public can judge for themselves. In the meantime, we urge anyone with information regarding sexual abuse or misconduct by any Catholic bishop, priest, deacon, nun, religious brother, lay employee, or volunteer to contact law enforcement first. Secular investigations produce the best results when it comes to dangerous behavior.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)