May 13th, 2010
07:34 PM ET

Vermont diocese settles lawsuits alleging clergy abuse

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, announced Thursday it has settled 26 clergy abuse lawsuits dating back to the 1970s for $17.6 million.

This covers all pending lawsuits of this type against the diocese, according to a letter posted on its website by the Rev. Salvatore R. Matano, the bishop of Burlington.

"I once again apologize most sincerely for the pain the victims have suffered," writes Matano. "I ask that you join me in praying always for these wounded and hurt brothers and sisters. It is my constant hope that one day we will be united in the faith."

In addition, Jerome O'Neill, the lead attorney for the victims, said two other cases that were on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court involving million-dollar jury verdicts have been settled separately, taking the total settlement figure to more than $20 million.

According to O'Neill, his clients had mixed feelings about the settlements.

"They are glad to have it over with for the most part," he said in an interview with CNN Radio. "In some respects it's an emotional letdown because they would like to be able to have a jury hear what they have to say, but there's also great value for them in putting this chapter of their lives behind them."

O'Neill said most of the cases involved allegations of molestation of altar boys by the Rev. Edward Paquette, a priest who served in Vermont from 1972 to 1978. Paquette was suspended by the diocese that year but wasn't defrocked by the Vatican until 2009. He apologized for his actions last year in an interview with the Burlington Free Press.

The diocese says the cost of the settlements is its own responsibility. The diocesan administration building and another one of its properties have been placed on the real estate market to help cover those costs, Matano said in his letter. Also, the diocese has secured an interim loan using diocesan property as collateral.

O'Neill quoted one of his clients as he said people don't understand this is not about a situation 30 years ago: "It's about an institution that knew all along what it was doing when it covered it up, and by covering it up they failed to protect the children."

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Filed under: Religion • Vermont
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Help!!! Pope Help!!!
    I think the Catholic church should allow the priests to get a wife. This may be the issue all the latest news are pointed to. Psychiatrists could tell what is wrong with men without a woman? Why do they tend to go to the kids around?
    May God bless all those innocent children victims of men laws. I searched in the holy Bible but couldn't find a word forbidding marriage to the priest.

    May 14, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Wylie

    If priests needed a wife, why are they going after little boys?

    May 14, 2010 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Red_Aviary

    Shouldn't be about money. Should be about justice. Justice isn't done if this case is settled.

    May 14, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  4. Thorrsman

    It is usually about the money. The Catholic Church has deep pockets and, quite obviously, public sympathy is with anyone who makes an accusation, no proof required. I wonder how much the lawyers got? And have they scored this same payday against the Church before?

    May 14, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sam

    Thomas, the marriage of priests was actually banned by the Pope in the middle ages because priests were becoming more involved with their families than the church. The pope believed that it clouded their judgement and their morals and was contributing to the current corruption of the church.

    May 14, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. Russ

    Typical of the Catholic Church, they have plenty of money and they buy their way out of problems, the press and in the confessional they just thank god they have poor money for the next time they get caught.

    Here's a concept: Let the legal system take care of these sickos.

    I remember my childhood in the Catholic church and our drunken Father Patch. What a sad excuse he was for a spiritual guide.

    May 14, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bryan

    Priests have the option of getting a woman, but they CHOOSE to molest little boys. This has little to do with priests needing has more to do with priests needing to be closely monitored

    May 14, 2010 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ralph

    I served hundreds of Masses in the 50' and 60's and never once was approached or heard of another altar boy being approached by a priest. From what I've observed it wasn't until the liberalization of society as a whole in the late 60's that all this abuse began.

    I agree with the others that it has nothing to do with whether or not a priest has a wife; these men are "gay" pedophiles. Read your local paper, listen to your TV news broadcasts, these people are found in all walks of life anymore.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robcokc

    I think that as part of the plea deal the Pope should get community service and finally do something really good for a community like picking up trash....

    May 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |