In early June, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a state law that says defendants’ rights are not violated by retroactively eliminating the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims.

Repealing time limits on when sex abuse lawsuits need to be filed allows survivors to seek delayed justice.

Here in Maine, Bishop Robert Deeley is leading Maine’s 200,000-plus Catholics in an all-out war to block victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse from seeking reparations in a civil courtroom for the harms and injuries inflicted upon them by the abuse and the failure of church officials to protect them – no matter when the abuse occurred.

It is not unexpected that Bishop Deeley would oppose the legislation passed by the Maine Legislature two years ago. In secular terms, Deeley is the territorial senior vice president of a worldwide organization whose employees and officials have committed and covered up more sex crimes against children than any other institution in history.

In his 2021 ruling, Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon wrote that the purpose of the Legislature’s amendment to the civil statutes of limitation “reflects a unique and evolved societal recognition of the nature of child sexual abuse and the headwinds against victims’ ability to bring their claim.”

So, how is it even remotely possible for the justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, knowing what both they and we know now about the long-term effects and trauma of child sexual abuse, to rule in any other way than the justices in Vermont?


Deeley argues that the church cannot defend itself against “old claims.” Yet, during the past year, Deeley had no problem telling two women that their reports of childhood rape by a priest in the early 1980s are “unfounded” and “could not have occurred.”

Victims and survivors in Maine want the same access to the civil court process as survivors in Vermont, a process that includes depositions, discovery, evidence, testimony, cross-examination, a judge and a jury.

Victims and survivors ask for no more than a fair trial, in an open courtroom, not behind closed doors at the diocesan chancery.

As it stands, the odds are stacked against clergy abuse survivors who were abused before 1987 and have no alternative but to bring their cases to Deeley and his secret review board.

Members of Bishop Deeley’s Clergy Review Board are handpicked by the bishop. Deeley refuses to make public transcripts of review board hearings. Victims are not called to testify. There is no cross examination of the accused priest by the accuser’s legal counsel.

Four years ago, a former diocesan investigator, John S. Brennan, reported to the media that one instance of reported child abuse was “a complete cover-up of the highest order that cannot possibly be explained or defended and still screams out for justice,” and in a second instance that the church trial of a multi-accused pedophile priest was rigged. No victims were permitted to testify by a chancellor and Richard Malone, then bishop for the Diocese of Portland. Malone has since been forced to resign as bishop of Buffalo, New York, for mishandling reports of child sexual abuse.

I am witness to the personal suffering of a woman who was offered pennies on the dollar as reparations for her rape by a priest when she was 11 years old because the presiding bishop knew the statute of limitations prevented her from filing a civil lawsuit.

By amending the civil statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, informed and educated Maine legislators placed justice for survivors and the protection of children at the forefront of efforts sweeping the nation to protect children.

Hopefully, the supreme court justices will be granted the same measure of wisdom and, above all, common sense.

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