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Saturday, June 28, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Priest commits suicide following allegations of sexual abuse

DOVER-FOXCROFT - A Roman Catholic priest committed suicide after he was informed that he would be suspended pending an investigation of his alleged sexual abuse of a minor 29 years ago, the Diocese of Portland said Friday.

The body of the Rev. James Robichaud, 56, was found Friday morning in the rectory of Our Lady of the Snows in Dover-Foxcroft. He learned of the allegation the day before.

Robichaud died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Sgt. Gary West of the Dover-Foxcroft police. He said an employee at the rectory found the body in a second-floor bathroom, and it was believed that the shooting took place Thursday evening. No suicide note was found, West said.

The abuse allegation came to the diocese from the Oblates, a religious order of men with whom Robichaud was serving in Massachusetts prior to his return to Maine in 2000.

The abuse was alleged to have occurred around the time Robichaud, an Augusta native, was ordained in 1979 and assigned to St. Jean-Baptiste Parish in Lowell, Mass. He later served as chaplain of Lowell General Hospital and pastor of Notre Dame De Lourdes in Lowell.

"Out of pastoral care for Father Robichaud's family and parishes during this time of shock and grief, further details about the case will be released at a later date," the diocese said in its statement.

The diocese said there is not enough information at this point to substantiate or dismiss the allegation. Bishop Richard Malone asked that prayers be said for all involved.

"This is a tragic end to a story that we may never completely understand. It is simply our mission to bring the healing presence of Jesus to this agonizing situation. May His love work through each of us to find compassion for the woman who made the complaint, Father Robichaud's soul, his family, friends and parish community," Malone said.

Robichaud attended the Oblate College and Seminary in Natick, Mass., Framingham State College in Massachusetts and the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., where he received a masters of divinity.

On his return to Maine, he was named administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover-Foxcroft and St. Francis in Brownville Junction. St. Anne Parish in Dexter was added to his responsibilities in 2005. The three parishes joined in 2007 to become Our Lady of the Snows.