Plaintiff, Church Settle Abuse Case

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [Springfield MA]
October 16, 2003

SPRINGFIELD - Former Berkshire County Commissioner Paul R. Babeu has reached a settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vt., in a lawsuit stating that he was abused by a Montague native who was serving as a Vermont priest at the time of the alleged incident.

In exchange for Babeu agreeing to drop his suit against the diocese, the Vermont church has agreed to pay "a low amount" of money to Babeu, according to his lawyer Thomas C. Bixby, a member of the Brattleboro, Vt., law firm McCarty Law Offices.

Babeu, 34, who works as a police officer in Chandler, Ariz., said his suit was never about the money.

"Nothing can truly erase the harm done by the sexual abuse. I feel the settlement is an acknowledgment of their responsibility in what happened to me," Babeu said yesterday.

Babeu said that at age 15 he was transported by Springfield diocesan priest the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne to northern Vermont where he was left overnight with the Rev. George Paulin, who sexually abused him.

"When Lavigne dropped me off, and I fought off his advances, he said, 'Apparently Father Lavigne hasn't broken you in,'" Babeu said.

A year ago, Paulin was placed on leave by the Burlington diocese at about the same time as that state's attorney general's office began an investigation into allegations of priest misconduct.

Babeu reported the abuse to John Marshall, who was the Burlington bishop before becoming the Springfield bishop.

Marshall, who has since died, wrote back to Babeu in 1987 and said that he confronted Paulin with the allegation, which Paulin denied.

The Burlington diocese issued a statement yesterday, saying, "We are pleased with the terms and we are glad to have taken this painful case to resolution."

"We wish the plaintiff well and sincerely hope it brings spiritual and emotional closure to him," said Gloria J. Gibson, communications director for the Burlington diocese.

Babeu also reported to the Diocese of Springfield that he was abused by Lavigne. Diocesan leaders said it was the first accusation against Lavigne.

Lavigne was subsequently convicted of two counts of child molestation in 1992.

Babeu, who has pending suits against Paulin, Lavigne and the Springfield diocese, said he is disappointed at the lack of goodwill shown by the Springfield diocese.

"They are saying one thing publicly, but it isn't being backed up privately. There has been a total lack of pastoral outreach," Babeu said.

Last month, the Springfield diocese announced it is open to using a mediator to settle the 25 or so suits filed against it on the grounds of clergy sexual abuse.


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