Father James R. Porter is one of the most notorious United States Catholic priest child sexual abusers. He molested dozens of children – perhaps more than a hundred - in multiple states over three decades. The criminal and civil cases brought against him in the early 1990s for sexually abusing children while a priest were instrumental in bringing national and international public awareness to clergy pedophilia.
Porter was born on January 2, 1935. He was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Fall River (Massachusetts) in 1960. Porter was alleged to have sexually abused a boy even prior to ordination, while employed by the Diocese of Fall River as a camp counselor, just prior to entering the seminary. After ordination, Porter worked at multiple parishes in the Diocese of Fall River, where there were several complaints from parishioners and others that he molested children. Porter was transferred to other Diocese of Fall River parishes in the wake of the allegations, and the Diocese of Fall River sent Porter to medical/psychological treatment multiple times in the 1960s. In 1967, Porter was sent for treatment at the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
While at Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, Porter was assigned to work at parishes in New Mexico, Texas and Nevada. He was subsequently accused of sexually abusing children during some of those assignments. In 1969, Porter was assigned to Our Lady of the Snow Retreat House, a Servants of the Paraclete facility in Nevis, Minn. (Diocese of Crookston), and Porter provided assistance in Northern Minnesota parishes, including at least one in the Diocese of Duluth. Later in 1969, Porter was assigned to work as an assistant pastor at St. Philip’s Church in Bemidji, Minnesota (Diocese of Crookston). Porter left St. Philip’s in 1970 after he was accused of sexually abusing several children there.
Porter was suspended and granted a leave of absence from the priesthood. Porter subsequently lived in Hastings, Minn., and St. Paul, Minn., and worked as a banker. He was laicized in 1974. Porter married in 1976; he, his wife and their children lived in Oakdale, Minn. From approximately 1982-91, Porter tutored math at Transfiguration Catholic School in Oakdale, Minn., in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In approximately 1990, a former altar boy sexually abused by Porter in Massachusetts in the 1960s, confronted Porter about the abuse. Porter’s sexual abuse of children while a priest soon became public, and he admitted abusing 50 to 100 children. In the early 1990s, dozens of lawsuits were brought in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico by persons sexually abused by Porter as children. In December 1992, 68 Porter victims settled lawsuits against the Diocese of Fall River alone, and 21 of Porter’s St. Philip’s (Bemidji) victims eventually settled their claims. In 1992, Porter was criminally charged with molesting his babysitter in Minnesota in 1987 at his Oakdale home. Porter was criminally charged for abusing children in Massachusetts while a priest, and pleaded guilty in 1993 to sexually assaulting 28 children in parishes in southeastern Massachusetts in the 1960s. Porter was sentenced to 18-20 years in prison. He died in 2005 while awaiting his release from prison.
Porter is included on official lists of clergy members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, including lists made public by the Diocese of Crookston and the Diocese of Duluth in 2014.
Porter’s Ordination, Assignments and Ministerial Statuses:
· 4/2/1960 Ordained
· 1960-63 St. Mary’s Parish, North Attleboro, Mass.
· 1963-64 Sacred Heart Parish, Fall River, Mass.
· 1965 Treatment, Wiswall Hospital, Wellesley, Mass.
· 1966-67 Saint James Parish, New Bedford, Mass.
· 1967 St. Patrick’s Parish, Stoneham, Mass.
· 1967 Suspended by Bishop of Fall River
· 1967-69 Servants of the Paraclete, Jemez Springs, New Mexico,
treatment; and assignments at parishes in New Mexico,
Nevada, and Texas.
· 1969 Our Lady of the Snow Retreat House, Nevis, Minn.
(Servants of the Paraclete)
· 1969-70 St. Charles, Cass Lake, Minn.
· 1969-70 St. Philip’s Church, Bemidji, Minn.
· 1970 Servants of the Paraclete, St. Louis, Mo.
· 1970 Suspended by Bishop of Fall River
· 1974 Laicized
On December 7, 2015, the Diocese of Duluth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier in 2015.
More information on the Diocese of Duluth bankruptcy can be found at: