Lawyer Accuses Church of Withholding Documents
July 19, 2006
Burlington, Vt. -- The lawyer for 21 people suing Vermont's Roman Catholic Diocese for alleged sexual abuse by priests is accusing the diocese of withholding large numbers of documents it is legally required to produce.
"The diocese is withholding 27 years of documents," lawyer Jerome O'Neill wrote in a request that the Chittenden Superior Court impose sanctions on the church.
He said the diocese and its lawyer, William O'Brien, "either purposely hid large numbers of documents ... or completely breached their duty of diligence."
O'Brien said the diocese has not withheld the records.
"The diocese has produced an unprecedented amount of material, literally thousands of pages of diocesan documents, and we are confident that this motion will be denied," O'Brien said.
He added that the "diocese has been fully cooperative with the legal process and will continue to do so in the future as we move to resolve these cases as fairly and expeditiously as possible."
O'Neill requested in his motion that the next lawsuit the diocese faces _ involving alleged abuse by the Rev. George Paulin, who worked at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport in the 1970s _ be decided in favor of the plaintiff without a trial.
O'Neill also wrote, without providing examples, that the diocese is concealing documents "probably in every other case." He said the allegedly withheld documents include a letter from Paulin's sister to then-Bishop Kenneth Angell, documents connected to a case the diocese settled earlier this year for $965,000, and records shared with the state attorney general's office in a separate matter.
O'Neill's motion said the church's actions had been deceitful in that it had filed false documents in court saying it had produced all the documents it was required to turn over.
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