The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, has settled a lawsuit for $1.2 million with six men who claimed church leaders concealed sex abuse allegations against a former priest.
The suit alleges the diocese knew as early as 1956 that Father James Vallely was sexually abusing children in the church, and did nothing to stop it.
“We have another instance of a diocese hiding the truth for the sake of its appearance and monetary concerns,” said Mitchell Garabedian, the attorney representing the six victims.
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Vallely was a priest in Bangor, Portland, South Berwick, and Machias, Maine. The abuse is alleged to have happened in the 1950s and 1970s.
One of the plaintiffs, Lawrence Gray, of Scarborough, Maine, said Vallely started molesting him when he was eight years old and an altar boy at St. Dominic’s Parish in Portland. Gray said he did not feel like he could tell anyone about the abuse, which continued until he was 13 years old.
“Nobody knew about the dark side that was going on underneath,” said Gray.
But his lawyer said people in the church did know about the abuse.
“The diocese kept it a secret,” said Garabedian. He said his proof is in a letter between church officials obtained in discovery, which references a report of Vallely’s abuse to the Bishop. Garabedian believes the people and places referenced in the letter prove that conversation happened in 1956.
The church had previously stated it learned of Vallely’s alleged abuse in the 1970s.
“There is no excuse for this immorality,” said Garabedian.
The letter also states that after allegations were made against Vallely, he was transferred to a different parish.
While the statute of limitations for the six victims has passed, Garabedian was able to build a case for “fraudulent concealment,” and reach a settlement with the church.
“Bit by bit, I have reclaimed my life, and taken my life back,” said Gray.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Portland Diocese said:
The Diocese of Portland has settled six claims alleging abuse by Fr. James Vallely in the 1950s and the 1970s. Fr. Vallely died in 1997. The diocese hopes that this settlement brings a measure of peace to the people involved. 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. As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.