Attorney Mike Bigos, who has filed all but two of the 14 clergy abuse lawsuits in Maine against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, holds a press conference Wednesday at Berman & Simmons Bangor office. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 800-871-7741.

Two men claiming they were sexually abused separately by a priest and a nun at Catholic schools in Bangor decades ago have sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and Bishop Robert Deeley in Penobscot County Superior Court.

The lawsuits are the latest made possible by a 2021 change in state law that lifted a statute of limitations on such claims. Previously, state law effectively prevented people who were abused as children before the late 1980s from suing their abusers and the organizations for which they worked.

Monsignor Edward F. Ward Credit: BDN File

With the new complaints, 14 lawsuits have been filed against the diocese since the Legislature changed the law.

The complaints announced Wednesday are the first since the law change that have accused Monsignor Edward F. Ward and Sister Mary Geraldine Walsh of abuse. The lawsuit alleging abuse by Walsh is the first since the statute of limitations was lifted that accuses a nun of sexual abuse.

The men are seeking unspecified damages for the severe and debilitating emotional injury, pain and suffering, physical and emotional trauma, and permanent psychological damage they suffered because of the abuse, the complaints said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is not commenting on the lawsuits. Its attorneys are not expected to file answers to the lawsuits before next year.

The two men, now 72 and 65, live in Penobscot and Cumberland counties respectively. Both asked not to be identified.

It is the practice of the Bangor Daily News not to name alleged victims of sexual abuse unless they agree to be identified.

One plaintiff was a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Mary’s Church and a student at St. Mary’s Catholic School in 1966, then located on Cedar Street, when Ward sexually assaulted him multiple times, according to the complaint.

On one occasion, a nun, who was principal at the school, allegedly walked in on one of Ward’s assaults. A few days later, the altar boy told his principal, who is not named in the lawsuit, that what she had witnessed was sex abuse. The principal slapped him across the face twice and called him a liar in response, the complaint alleged.

Attorney Mike Bigos, who has filed all but two of the 14 clergy abuse lawsuits in Maine against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, holds a press conference Wednesday at Berman & Simmons Bangor office. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

At one point, Ward allegedly sprinkled holy water on the boy’s genitals, so he took the plastic bottle with a label that said it was from the Basilique Ste.-Anne-de Beaupre in Quebec, Canada. He saved it for decades and brought it with him to his first meeting with attorney Michael Bigos of Lewiston, Bigos said Wednesday in announcing the new lawsuits.

Ward died in 1997 at age 96.

The second plaintiff was a 7-year-old second-grader at St. John’s School in 1957 and 1958 when Walsh, the principal, allegedly sexually abused him in a coat room. Prior to that incident, an unnamed lay teacher at the school would regularly undress and spank the boy and other students’ bare bottoms in front of the class. 

She allegedly sexually abused him in a coat room in the school. Prior to that incident, an unnamed lay teacher at the school would regularly undress and spank the boy and other students’ bare bottoms in front of the class.

Walsh died in 1973 at age 86.

St. John’s and St. Mary’s schools merged in 2000 to form All Saints Catholic School.

On Feb. 3, 1978, in sub-zero temperatures, a 14-year-old arsonist set the fire to St. Mary’s, destroying the 105-year-old landmark church. The new church was constructed on Ohio Street and dedicated in 1980.

The cases are expected to be handled by Maine’s Business and Consumer Court and Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon.