|Alleged Priest Abuse Victim Takes Stand
By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
October 1, 2009
A former altar boy who claims he was molested by then-Rev. Edward Paquette between 20 and 25 times in the late 1970s told a Burlington jury Thursday he “died a little bit” every time the abuse occurred.
“It was horrible,” the former altar boy, now 44, said of the fondling incidents at Christ the King Church in Burlington. “I just remember I was so full of fear every time he did it.”
The former altar boy said he was 11 when the first incident took place in 1976 in a room next to the church’s altar. He said Paquette molested him during the next two years every time he was assigned to perform altar-boy duties at the church.
“He would come up and grab me from behind, put an arm around me to hold me so I couldn’t get away, and then reach down with the other hand and unbutton my pants or go inside my pants,” he said.
He said his family members were strict Catholics, and he had a hard time reconciling Paquette’s conduct because he had been taught that priests were agents of God. He said he did not tell anyone about the abuse until a few years ago.
The Burlington Free Press does not identify the alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.
The man said he has struggled with alcohol and drug problems all his adult life. He said he did not realize the impact of Paquette’s conduct on his life until he saw a newspaper report in 2004 about another altar boy suing Paquette and the state’s Roman Catholic diocese.
“After I saw that story, it brought back a lot of bad memories,” he said. “Seeing Ed Paquette’s name in the paper really scared me. I had a son who was 12, and I remember looking at him and saying ‘Oh, my God, if anyone touched him, I’d kill him.’”
The man, who still lives in Burlington, sued the diocese a year later, basing his case on evidence that the diocese knew Paquette had molested boys in three states, including Vermont, before arriving at Christ the King Church in 1976.
Paquette was suspended by the diocese in 1978 after parents of a number of altar boys at the church complained to then-Bishop John Marshall. Paquette, who is retired and lives in Westfield, Mass., is not a defendant in the case.
The diocese does not dispute the abuse allegations but contends it relied on the advise of doctors and church psychologists at the time who had treated Paquette and thought his “homosexual problem” had been cured.
The man testified there was always a second altar boy with him when the molestations occurred, and that Paquette would fondle one boy while the other watched, and then switch to the other boy, or fondle both of them at the same time.
“It was horrible when it was done to you, but having a friend watch while it was happening made it worse,” he said. “I was really full of shame. I thought it was me. I thought I had caused it.”
He said he began using alcohol and marijuana as a middle-school student to numb his feelings about what Paquette had done to him. In his adult life, bouts with alcohol and drugs landed him in jail for driving under the influence and other charges.
“Alcohol and drugs took everything away from me that I love: my self-respect, my wife, my children, my home,” he said.
For the past two years, he has stayed sober and said he credits that to his involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous, a local fundamentalist church and attendees at a 2007 Christian gathering at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds who helped him forgive Paquette.
Under questioning by diocesan lawyer Kaveh Shahi, the man acknowledged he will share with his ex-wife 20 percent of any money he gets if he wins his case against the diocese, not the 50 percent share she had requested.
“You didn’t think she should have 50 percent,” Shahi said.
“No,” the man replied.
Chittenden Superior Court, the site of the trial, is closed today. The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday.
Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at email@example.com. To have Free Press headlines delivered free to your e-mail, sign up at www.burlingtonfreepress.com/newsletters.
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