SNAP Applauds Brave Victims Stepping Forward In Maine
(For Immediate Release December 22, 2022)
Two more alleged victims of clergy abuse have stepped forward, filing a complaint this week against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland for claims of sexual abuse occurring in Bangor in the 1950s and 1960s.
According to the filing, the first plaintiff alleges that when they were nine years old, they were sexually abused by Msgr. Edward F. Ward of Saint Mary's in Bangor (Msgr. Ward is now deceased). The plaintiff was described as a churchgoer who worked as an altar server. The second plaintiff claims that when they were seven years old, they were sexually assaulted by now-deceased Sister Mary Geraldine Walsh, who worked at St. John Parochial School in Bangor, which is now recognized as All Saints Catholic School.
We loudly applaud the two brave survivors who have stepped forward seeking justice and accountability after many years of harboring their pain. In solidarity, we stand with these survivors who are still dealing with the injuries inflicted on them and have important truths to share. Their stories will not only help uncover the still-hidden secrets of the Diocese of Portland but will also benefit society by helping it to design more protections for today's children.
These suits represent transparency and honesty being foisted upon an institution that has steadfastly refused to be clear with the public and parishioners about the extent of abuse within their diocese. Today, the Diocese of Maine is one of the few remaining dioceses in the nation to refuse to release a list of credibly accused priests. Unfortunately for church officials in Maine, survivors hold the truth, and dioceses have it documented. We believe this case will help make it far more difficult for church officials to pretend that their abuse scandal is no longer a problem.
More than anything, we hope these filings give other survivors the courage to come forward and report crimes, regardless of how long ago they may have occurred. We also hope that any individuals who witnessed or suspected sexual abuse will also report directly to law enforcement.
In a statement from the Portland Diocese, Bishop Robert Deeley said the following:
"Diocesan and parish leaders, clergy, employees, and volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure the Church in Maine is a safe environment ... We can gratefully say that our diocese's procedures have created a safer Church here."
As is common with Roman Catholic church officials, platitudes are offered, and specifics are shied from. If Bishop Dooley really cared about creating safer environments for children in Maine, he would release a list and inform parents throughout the state of when abusers were housed in schools, camps, or other institutions that serve children. We doubt he will do this; offering hollow words is, after all, far easier than taking meaningful steps to support survivors and protect communities and children in Maine.
(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)