Lawsuits against Portland Diocese adding up as more allegations of childhood sexual abuse reported

Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 11:00 AM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Two more plaintiffs have filed civil lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portland for alleged abuse in the 1950s and 1960s.

The first plaintiff was a nine-year-old altar boy at St. Mary Church in Bangor when he says he was sexually assaulted multiple times by Rev. Monsignor Edward F. Ward in 1966.

Ward died in 1997.

The second plaintiff was a seven-year-old at St. John Parochial School in Bangor in 1957-58 where he says he was abused by Sister Mary Geraldine Walsh.

Walsh died in 1973.

Attorneys from the Sex Abuse Survivors’ Practice Group for Bangor-based firm Berman & Simmons are representing these cases.

There are now 13 complaints against the Portland Diocese.

Lead Attorney for one case, Michael Bigos, says it’s important for victims to come forward.

“Every survivor has a different response. Some survivors we’re hearing from had disclosed their abuse and were told and were rejected and told that they were liars. Some survivors that are coming forward tell us that they’ve never spoken with anybody about it. We want all survivors to know that we will meet them where they’re at. And we don’t judge them on their experience, and we work with the best of mental health counselors and forensic psychologists to help tell their experience,” said Bigos.

Lead Attorney for the other case, Timothy Kenlan said, “I think overall, it’s very healing the healing process.”

Bigos added: “Survivors tell us universally it’s not about the money. They want to hold the church accountable. They want to be believed, and they want to make their community safer by helping prevent future sexual abuse.”

Kenlan can empathize with his client.

“It’s really meaningful for me. I myself am a survivor of childhood sex abuse. And at that time I was 14, but I did have the ability to go through the court system. My abuser was held accountable in the criminal system and the civil system. And so, to be able to help people along that journey, it’s really meaningful for me,” said Kenlan.

After the Maine’s legislature lifted the statute of limitations on these cases last year, more survivors are speaking up.

“Survivors should come forward when they’re ready. Survivors should know that they’re not alone,” Bigos said.

“And that’s one of the biggest things is that we’ve had, we’ve spoken with people who have said, I thought I was the only one, I thought this was an isolated incident, and they’ve learned that other people experienced the same things they did, and so they were empowered by hearing other stories to come forward and trying to heal themselves,” Kenlan added.

We have reached out to the Portland Diocese for comment and have not heard back from them.

To report sexual assault, you can call the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault Help line at 1-800-871-7741