A former Jesuit priest and Cheverus High School teacher who was indicted this month on charges of sexual abuse dating to the late 1990s settled a lawsuit in June with a man who claimed the priest sexually assaulted him in a Freeport church when he was 9 years old.

The name of the victim in the criminal case has not been released, but the age of the victim and the location and timing of the assaults align with facts revealed in the civil case.

The Nov. 9 indictment charged James Francis Talbot, 80, who had been living in Missouri, with one count of Class A gross sexual assault and one count of Class C unlawful sexual contact. Talbot was extradited from Missouri and arrived Wednesday in Maine. He was being held at the Cumberland County Jail on $50,000 cash bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Friday at 1 p.m.

The Freeport Police Department issued a statement Wednesday saying it sought the indictment after receiving a report about abuse and conducting an investigation. The department also confirmed that the victim in the criminal case was a resident and member at St. Jude Church in Freeport when he allegedly was molested by Talbot between May 1997 and June 1998.

There have been numerous allegations of child sexual abuse against Talbot, both from when he was at Cheverus and at Boston College High School in the 1970s, involving multiple victims. He already has spent six years in prison for a sexual abuse conviction in Massachusetts.

The most recent case, though, is the first time that Talbot has been accused in Maine of misconduct that did not occur at Cheverus High School.

It also serves as a reminder that the damage caused by a widespread culture of sexual abuse by Catholic priests – exposed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in the Boston Globe more than a decade ago – is still coming to light.

The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office did not return several calls for comment. Talbot’s defense attorney, Walt McKee, also did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

According to the civil complaint filed last year, Talbot allegedly assaulted a 9-year-old boy on several occasions in early 1998 while acting as a priest at St. Jude Church in Freeport.

The complaint alleged that Talbot used his position in the church, and as a Jesuit and Cheverus teacher, to befriend the boy and his family. The Portland Press Herald does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Talbot’s accuser said the priest assaulted him while he was receiving religious instruction at the church.

The lawsuit named as defendants Talbot, the Roman Catholic bishop of Portland, Cheverus High School and the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus.

The victim alleged that the institutions that were responsible for Talbot knew about his “propensity to sexually abuse boys” but did not adequately protect children who came into contact with him. The victim’s attorney in the civil case, Mark Randall, did not return calls for comment Wednesday.


Melissa Hewey, an attorney representing Cheverus, said she had no comment on the criminal charges involving Talbot because the alleged acts in this case did not involve a Cheverus student, nor did they occur on school grounds.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland referred all questions to the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.

Jesuits are an order of the Catholic Church whose members focus on education and evangelization. They serve the universal church rather than any specific diocese or archdiocese, said Michael Benigno, a spokesman for the Northeast Province.

In a written statement, Benigno said the province was aware of the new charges against Talbot. He said that after Talbot’s prison sentence in 2011, he was laicized by the Vatican, which means he is no longer a priest.

He has, however, remained a Jesuit, Benigno said, and has been living at the Vianney Renewal Center – a church-owned facility in Dittmer, Missouri, that provides housing and counseling to priests and former priests, including many who have been suspected or convicted of sexual abuse.

“We understand this to be a painful time, particularly for the individual who has raised these charges,” the statement read. “We expect Mr. Talbot to cooperate with legal proceedings and hope that the ensuing trial will afford the victim justice.

“The USA Northeast Province has, and will continue to strive to extend a healing presence to all victims of sexual abuse, while working toward eradicating sexual abuse from the church and the wider society. We will continue to pray for and support this individual and anyone who has been a victim of abuse at the hands of those they should have been able to trust. Any violation of that trust is grave and deserving of justice.”


The latest allegations against Talbot come on top of his lengthy history of abuse dating to the 1970s, when he was a teacher and coach at Boston College High. Many of those allegations were reported by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight investigative team, whose work was featured in the Academy Award-winning 2015 film “Spotlight.” The movie includes references to Talbot’s victims.

In a March 2002 article, the Globe reported that Talbot coached wrestling, as well as soccer, at Boston College High and that he engaged in a “bizarre habit” of wrestling with students who were in various stages of undress, including wearing only athletic supporters.

Those allegations led to additional victims coming forward. In 2003, 14 men reached a settlement of claims against Talbot totaling $5.2 million.

Two years later, Talbot pleaded guilty to criminal charges of raping and sexually assaulting two Boston College High School students in the 1970s. He was sentenced to five to seven years in prison and then released to the church’s rehab facility in Illinois.

Long before the allegations at Boston College High became public, Talbot was transferred in 1980 to Cheverus High School, a Jesuit-run private school in Portland. He taught alongside former longtime track coach Charles Malia, who admitted in 2000 that he abused boys at the school.

The Rev. Steven Dawber, Cheverus’ president when Talbot was transferred there, worked with Talbot at Boston College High and recommended that he join him at Cheverus. Dawber also was suspected of sexually abusing boys, according to the Globe. He died in 2010.

The Rev. John Keegan, a former president of Cheverus, has said the school was unaware of the incidents in Boston when Talbot and Dawber were hired.


It’s not clear how widespread Talbot’s abuse might have been in Maine, but there were at least two more alleged victims here.

Michael Doherty, a Freeport man, filed a lawsuit in 1998 alleging that Talbot molested him in the mid-1980s at Cheverus.

Doherty, who has spoken publicly about the abuse, was a teenager at the time and his family had become close with Talbot. They even let him come and go from their home as he pleased.

The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2001.

A second Cheverus victim also settled a suit involving Talbot, although that accuser did not come forward publicly.

No criminal charges were filed because the alleged abuse fell outside the statute of limitations at that time. Talbot, however, was terminated by Cheverus the next year.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

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Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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