Imagine you’re a church-going Catholic and as you sit in the pew before Mass begins, you read this in your parish bulletin:
Details for an upcoming listening session led by the Diocese about the recent developments in our parish will be announced at all Masses this weekend, July 10/11. Please continue to pray for all involved.
“Recent developments??? What in the heck are they talking about?”
That may be the response of those who don’t follow the news or aren’t close to fellow parishioners. But many in this parish already know, thanks to the secular news media, that a Maine priest, Fr. Robert Vaillancourt, has been accused of sexual abusing a girl and has been put on leave.
But wouldn’t it have been a reassuring sign of ‘transparency’ had Maine Bishop Robert Deeley just come out and said that, plainly and clearly, instead of “recent developments?”
It’s hard to believe the church hierarchy is serious about addressing and preventing child sex crimes and cover ups if they can’t even bring themselves to use accurate terms to describe child sex crimes and cover ups.
And think of what Catholic officials might have written instead of those two short, vague sentences they put in the parish bulletin?
If you have any information or suspicions about the new child sex abuse allegation that surfaced just last week about Fr. Vaillancourt, it’s your duty to call law enforcement and your moral duty to warn friends and neighbors. We’d also be grateful if you would contact the chancery.
If you want to be helpful, please discourage everyone from trying to figure out who the accuser is. At best, that serves no purpose. At worst, such speculation frightens other victims into keeping quiet, thinking “Therapists or cops say ‘If you report abuse, your privacy will be protected’ but that’s not really true.”
If you want your church and this community to be safer, please do NOT publicly rally around Fr. Vaillancourt. When this happens, others who abused by any adult and are still in pain feel even worse. And they may become too scared or depressed or hopeless and keep quiet instead of reporting their predator to law enforcement.
Instead, Maine Catholic officials chose, in this instance, to do what they’ve done for decades: the absolute bare minimum.
And instead of a ‘listening’ session, how about the church hierarchy has a ‘telling’ session, and explains to them how rare false allegations are, how they can best support their pastor without intimidating other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers, how they can bring up the painful subject of abuse with loved ones and gently nudge them to disclose their trauma. . .
Being vague and using euphemisms seem like a pattern in the Portland diocese. It’s internal division that looks into abuse reports is called the “Office of Professional Responsibility.”
And consider these sentences from the Portland diocese’s recent news release about this accused child molester:
—-“Public authorities have also been notified of the allegation.”
Why not tell parishioners and the public WHICH public authority, so if someone has information or suspicions about abuse, they’ll know which agency to call, instead of being ping ponged between any number of city or county police or sheriff’s departments until landing in the right place?
—-“No updates are offered during an active investigation.”
Really? That’s the official diocesan policy? Even if 25 more accusers come forward in the next few days? Or if Fr. Vaillancourt admits guilt? Or a long-hidden church document surfaces in which a previous bishop writes “We’ve now gotten our 12th abuse report involving the same priest, and to me, they all seem very credible.”
To us at Horowitz Law, this sounds like “Lay off of us. We’ll let you know whatever we want you to know whenever we want you to know it.” And to us, it seems like this practice – no updates, no matter what arises – sounds like it’s written purely for the benefit of church staff.
Please spread the word about Fr. Vaillancourt, especially if you know anyone who lives or lived in communities where he worked. According to the Portland diocese, Fr. Vaillancourt is currently the pastor of St. Brendan the Navigator Parish (Our Lady of Good Hope Church, Camden; St. Bernard Church, Rockland; St. Francis of Assisi Church, Belfast; St. Mary of the Isles Churches on Islesboro, Vinalhaven and North Haven) and the St. Dismas Catholic Community at the Maine state prison.
And please also tell friends and family in Maine that soon a civil ‘window’ will open up, enabling people who were assaulted as kids to file civil lawsuits against those who committed and concealed child sex crimes.
Those lawsuits, we’re confident, will NOT mince words. Instead, they will plainly and clearly lay out just how awful it is to sexually violate a child. And they may help keep other children safe.