St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook, where two brothers who served as altar boys in the 1970s said they were sexually abused, according to complaints filed in court Thursday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Four more complaints were filed in state and federal court this week against Catholic organizations that oversaw members of the clergy who are accused of sexually abusing children in Maine in the 1950s and 1970s.

Three complaints were filed in Cumberland County, one by a former parishioner of St. Joseph in Portland and the others by two brothers who served as altar boys at the former St. Hyacinth Church in Westbrook in 1978.

All three complaints name the diocese as the sole defendant, alleging the church failed to keep its parishioners safe from known abusers whom they shuffled from parish to parish for decades. The men have asked not to be named. The Press Herald does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Their attorney, Michael Bigos, is now representing eight clients in Maine who have sued the Catholic Diocese of Portland since state lawmakers voted in 2021 to remove the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse lawsuits.

Dave Guthro, communications director for the diocese, did not return email and phone messages Thursday requesting an interview about the latest complaints against the church.

Also this week, a lawsuit against the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor, describing abuse in the 1950s that a young “Jane Doe,” living in a Catholic orphanage in Massachusetts, said she experienced on trips to Oblate-run retreats in Bar Harbor and Bucksport.


The Oblates did not return a call and email left Thursday evening with their main office in San Antonio.


The two brothers suing the diocese were part of a small family of “devout Catholics” who were honored when church leaders asked the boys to serve as altar boys during early morning mass with Father Michael Plourde in 1977.

It was when Plourde was helping the brothers put on their frocks that he sexually abused them, according to the complaint. When the boys reported the abuse to their parents, their mother was quick to report the abuse to local church officials. The Rev. Antonio A. Gosselin, Plourde’s supervisor, promised to make a report to then-Bishop Edward Cornelius O’Leary.

The boys ceased serving as altar boys. The family stopped attending service at St. Hyacinth. They never heard back from Gosselin about the reported abuse.

Plourde was temporarily removed from the church around 1989 while he received counseling following allegations of misconduct against an adult, according to the complaint. He was permanently removed in 1994 following allegations of sex abuse against two other minors dating to the 1970s. According to the brothers’ complaints, it’s believed that Plourde still lives in Cumberland County today.


“Today, plaintiff’s father – age 84 – laments defendant’s failure to disclose or warn parishioners of the known threat of childhood sex abuse posed by defendant’s employees and states that if he had known of the risk, he would never have allowed plaintiff and plaintiff’s brother to serve as altar boys,” their complaints state.

This is not the first time that St. Hyacinth Parish has been named in allegations of sexual abuse by priests overseeing the church.

One plaintiff who sued in March said he was abused there by a Sunday school teacher at the time, Rene Daniel, beginning in 1979. Daniel used to teach from his parents’ home, according to that complaint. The same plaintiff also said he was abused by John Shorty and John Harris while they were working with youth at St. Hyacinth in the late 1970s. Shorty and Harris later became priests.

Bigos said Thursday that he believes there is a “cluster of survivors” in Westbrook, where today the diocese runs St. Anthony of Padua Parish.


The other man who filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cumberland County was a member of St. Joseph Parish in Portland in 1970, where he attended St. Joseph Parochial School from fifth grade to eighth grade. His mother worked for St. Joseph the Provider Thrift Store, which the church ran out of its basement until 1967.


The Rev. J. Raymond Lauzon oversaw the thrift store during his time at St. Joseph, from 1965 to 1970. The Maine Attorney General’s Office would later connect Lauzon to 18 reports of sexual abuse against minors in its 2004 investigation of the diocese, which focused on the church’s practice of moving priests accused of abuse across parishes throughout the state.

Lauzon already had served in six different locations for the church and taken a leave of absence by the time he joined St. Joseph in Portland in 1965.

In 1970, the complaint says, Lauzon approached the plaintiff – then 12 years old – and told him to sit with him on a sofa at the back of the thrift store, where Lauzon allegedly abused the boy until he cried.

Lauzon was incarcerated for four months in the 1980s. He pleaded guilty to one charge of tampering with evidence, after asking one of the survivors in a gross sexual assault case against him to alter sworn testimony. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the sexual assault charges.

Bigos’ other clients include Robert Dupuis, who said he was abused by priest John Curran in 1961 in Old Town, and Ann Allen, who last week filed a lawsuit against the diocese for abuse she said she experienced from Rev. Lawrence Sabatino as a young girl at St. Peter Parish in Portland. Sabatino also featured prominently in the Maine attorney general’s report.

Each client is seeking individual justice, Bigos said Thursday. Their circumstances are unique and he plans to litigate until they each receive what they are entitled to, either via jury or settlement.


However, Bigos hopes the eight lawsuits will pressure the church into releasing more information on problematic priests and clergy, whether they’re dead or alive, still ministering or no longer practicing with the church.

“With the filing of today’s lawsuits, we call on the Maine Diocese to reveal all of the names and all of the dates of abuse for the priests they know about, who were credibly alleged to have committed the abuse,” Bigos said. “It’s time to stop hiding that and to share that – to take responsibility and to help survivors heal.”


Jane Doe, who filed the complaint against the Oblates in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, grew up in a Massachusetts orphanage run by the Grey Nuns, a Montreal-based religious organization that would send sisters to locations across the country to promote Catholic education. The Grey Nuns often partnered with the Oblates.

Doe, who was 4 when she joined the orphanage with her sister and two brothers, was talented at singing and dancing from a young age, according to her complaint. She often performed at events organized by both the Grey Nuns and the Oblates, which is why she was sent several times to perform at the Oblate Seminary and Retreat Home in Bucksport and the Oblate College and Seminary in Bar Harbor.

The complaint alleges that Doe was abused at least 10 different times by Rev. Arthur Craig, who celebrated his 65th anniversary as a priest with the Oblates in 2021, and various unnamed clergy.

The complaint notes there are no public assignments listed for Craig with Oblates, but that it appears he’s living in Massachusetts.

“Upon information and belief, priests and nuns under other dioceses and religious orders were directly involved and conspired to cover-up acts of child sexual abuse committed in the state of Maine involving Jane Doe and other minor orphans, students and parishioners,” the complaint states. “Jane Doe has now decided to come forward and hold the individuals and institutions accountable for the sexual abuse and violence committed against her.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: