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Midcoast-area priest on leave following accusation of sexual abuse in 1980s

Father Robert Vaillancourt, pastor in Belfast, Camden, Rockland, and islands has denied the allegations, Portland diocese says
Credit: NCM

ROCKLAND, Maine — A Catholic priest who has served more than a dozen Maine communities over the years is on administrative leave after being accused of sexually abusing a minor girl in the 1980s.

Father Robert Vaillancourt is pastor of Catholic churches in Belfast, Camden, and Rockland, as well as St. Mary of the Isles Churches on Islesboro, North Haven, and Vinalhaven.

Vaillancourt also serves as chaplain at Maine Medical Center.

Vaillancourt has denied the allegations, according to a release Monday from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland. He "has indicated that he will cooperate with any investigation into the matter," according to the release.

Vaillancourt was ordained in 1982 at St. Peter & Paul Parish in Lewiston, according to an April release. He served at St. Andre's Parish in Biddeford from 1985 to 1987 and was then appointed by the Portland diocese to lead St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Madawaska following the removal of Rev. John Audibert after Audibert admitted abusing a teenage boy.

In 1987 he was appointed director of the Christian Life Center in Upper Frenchville, and in 1988 became director of the Diocese of Portland's Youth Ministry program.

From 1991 to 2012, Vaillancourt served in the communities of East Millinocket, Old Town, Bridgton and Fryeburg, Madawaska, Hampden, Winterport, Brewer, Fort Kent, Rumford, and Bethel.

Diocese spokesman Dave Guthro is out of the office until July 12, according to an email reply, and did not immediately respond to questions on Monday.

On June 21, Governor Mills signed a bill into law that eliminates the statute of limitations to file a case of childhood sexual abuse

The law makes it so cases can be filed for all sexual acts towards minors, regardless of when the act happened. Previously, people who suffered abuse before 1987 had no recourse.

Representative Lori Gramlich shared her personal story sexual abuse during her childhood in her testimony in March for this bill to become law.

She said the average age of people coming forward to disclose is 52.

"This bill is not about suing somebody. It's about justice. As survivors, part of our recovery is to have that sense of justice. If they choose to want to disclose and have some sort of recourse, it's available," said Gramlich during an interview on Friday.

She said the law is not directed at the Catholic church nor the Boy Scouts or any other organizations with histories of sexual abuse claims.

This story will be updated.

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