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Alleged victims can pursue civil court claims after long-time priest is reinstated

An internal investigation cleared Father Robert Vaillancourt of sexual abuse allegations dating back to the 1980s.

PORTLAND, Maine — After a Catholic priest was recently cleared of sexual abuse allegations brought by two women, advocates are pushing for the alleged victims to seek justice in civil court. 

Attorney Mark Randall represents one of the two women who accused Father Robert Vaillancourt of sexual abuse in the 1980s. 

He tells NEWS CENTER Maine that the conclusion of the internal investigation by the Maine Catholic Diocese clearing Vaillancourt was shameful.

"They are really invalidating, or trying to invalidate, these victims' claims publicly," Randal said. 

Last September, NEWS CENTER Maine spoke exclusively to Randall's client, who came forward after being silent for 39 years. 

The alleged victim, who did not want to be identified, told us she was just 15 when Vaillancourt sexually assaulted her in the basement and in the rectory of the former St. Andre's Catholic Church in Biddeford. 

She says Vaillancourt was in charge of the youth program and had befriended her. 

"I felt like I could trust him, and eventually, he raped me," the woman said. 

RELATED: Second woman accuses Maine priest of sexual abuse

According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, interviews with 30 individuals, reviews of records, and documents did not find evidence that the alleged events occurred. 

The Diocese of Portland's Review Board upheld the findings and cleared Vaillancourt, who had been on administrative leave, to return to ministry services. 

Randall's client filed statements with both the Biddeford Police Department and the Maine Catholic Diocese investigators, but says she didn't participate in the investigation because she believed it would be a one-sided process.  

NEWS CENTER Maine has reached out for a statement regarding the investigative process, but a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has not responded to our request.

"They are eyewitnesses to their own crime," said Paul Kendrick. Kendrick, formerly of the Voice of Faithful, is an outspoken advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse.

He calls the decision to reinstate Vaillancourt a travesty. But he says the two women can file a civil claim against the long-time priest, under a new Maine law that removed the statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse.

"In the civil courtroom, he will be called to the witness stand," Kendrick explained. 

As for Randall's client, she's even more determined to pursue the civil court system as a means of justice. 

"There is a disappointment, but she has the conviction to see it through," Randall said. 

Randall says there are plans to file a civil suit against Vaillancourt and the Maine Catholic Diocese, but is not saying when.

According to the Portland diocese, Father Vaillancourt is returning to active ministry effective immediately, but he has not yet been assigned to a new post.

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