Priest at Waterville church removed over sexual abuse allegation

Author: Judy Harrison
Date Published: 05/08/2017

WATERVILLE, Maine — A priest at a Waterville church was removed from the priesthood Sunday after a report of sexual abuse of a minor about 15 years ago in Connecticut was substantiated, according to a church official.

The Rev. Larry Jensen, 62, was removed from the St. Joseph Maronite Catholic Church, by Bishop Gregory John Mansour, head of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, New York, the official said.

Jensen may never again conduct Mass in public or present himself as a priest, but will take early retirement and receive a portion of his retirement benefits, Michael Thomas, vicar general of the church, said Monday in a telephone interview. Jensen had been pastor since July 2006, according to information posted on the church’s website.

The bishop announced Jensen’s removal at weekend Masses.

The last time a St. Maron priest was removed from ministry due an allegation of sexual abuse was in 2004, Thomas said. His diocese learned of the allegation on Friday from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, where Jensen was assigned before moving to Maine, he said.

The Rev. James Doran, who was assigned to a Maronite church in Fall River, Massachusetts, was expected to arrive early this week to replace Jensen. Doran’s name was on the church website as pastor on Monday.

“Bishop Mansour has assured the diocese that [Father] Jensen has been removed from ministry after the claim was found to be substantiated,” Dave Guthro, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, said Monday in the press release. “The incident took place a number of years ago and did not occur in Maine.”

The Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn stretches from Maine to Florida. It is part of the Roman Catholic Church and recognizes the authority of the pope.

The Waterville church was founded in 1924 by Lebanese immigrants.

Former Sen. George Mitchell attended St. Joseph’s as a child.

The liturgy used in St. Maron’s churches is nearly identical to the Roman Mass, according to Thomas, who said, “We use some incense and a portion of the liturgy is spoken in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke,” he said.

Bishop Robert Deeley, head of the Maine diocese, encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authorities as well as Michael Magalski, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility, at 321-7836 or michael.magalski@portlanddiocese.org.

Contact information for Jensen could not be found.

To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.