Letter with 1956 priest abuse allegations comes to light, could open door to Maine lawsuits

A lawyer says a newly revealed letter indicating Roman Catholic Church officials knew about allegations that a Maine priest was abusing children in 1956 opens the door to lawsuits by additional victims.

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian says the 2005 letter referring to abuse allegations against the Rev. James Vallely shows the bishop at the time knew about allegations earlier than previously stated. He says that disclosure opens the door to lawsuits against the Portland diocese by victims who previously were shut out by Maine's statute of limitations.

Garabedian has already settled one fraudulent concealment case. He says he is representing five of Vallely's victims from the 1960s and 1970s. Vallely died in 1997.

Current Bishop Robert P. Deeley on Tuesday acknowledged past mistakes and said church leaders must "do everything possible to see that history does not repeat itself."