Diocese Settles Abuse Case

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press

July 25, 2008

The state's Roman Catholic diocese has agreed to an out-of-court settlement in a case filed by a man who alleged as a Montpelier altar boy he was repeatedly molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette in the mid-1970s.

Lawyers for the diocese and man, identified in court papers only as "John Doe," confirmed Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a financial settlement Wednesday, but each declined to say how much money was involved.

"I'm not going to do that," said Jerome O'Neill, the man's lawyer, when asked what the settlement figure was. Tom McCormick, a diocesan lawyer, said the figure would be made public once the settlement paperwork was finalized.

The settlement of the lawsuit came less than two weeks before the case was scheduled to go to trial at Chittenden County Superior Court. Another of the 20 pending priest sex abuse lawsuits will now take its place on the Aug. 5 trial docket.

O'Neill said his client agreed to a settlement to avoid the glare of a trial on the claims. "The individual involved did not want it known that he had been molested," O'Neill said.

According to court papers, the man was 10 years old when Paquette began molesting him. There were allegedly between 30 and 50 incidents over the next two years, and most took place at St. Augustine's Church.

The man said in his lawsuit that Paquette once took him on an outing to Elmore State Park and, while the two were changing into bathing suits, assaulted him after becoming sexually aroused. The man also claimed Paquette subsequently fondled him in the lake and engaged in another sexual act.

This week's settlement is the third this year worked out between the diocese and former altar boys with lawsuits alleging molestation claims against former priests.

Two earlier ones were settled for $170,000 apiece and involved what O'Neill said were different sets of circumstances than the case settled this week. O'Neill said this week's settlement amount exceeded $170,000.

In May, a jury awarded $8.7 million in damages to a former altar boy at Christ the King Church in Burlington who said he was molested by Paquette between 40 and 100 times at the church in the late 1970s.

The diocese has appealed the verdict, claiming among other things that the jury's award should be overturned because it was based on misguided instructions from Judge Matthew Katz.

The case now scheduled for trial Aug. 5 involves claims by another former Christ the King altar boy who said in court papers that Paquette molested him "at least 20 times" at the church and struggled with the effects of the abuse since then. Of the 20 remaining priest abuse cases, 15 involve claims of sexual misconduct by Paquette.

"He had nightmares and was anxious and depressed, began to drink and use drugs in elementary school, did not trust people and had difficulty with relationships," said one court document filed on the man's behalf by O'Neill.

Paquette was suspended from priestly duties by the diocese in 1978 after the parents of several Christ the King altar boys complained about Paquette to church officials. Paquette is now retired and lives in Westfield, Mass. He is not a defendant in the upcoming case.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.