Final Vt. church misconduct cost: $30M
By Kevin O’connor
June 1, 2014
When Vermont’s Catholic Church settled the last of a string of priest misconduct lawsuits a year ago, the final numbers — some 40 child sexual abuse cases in a near-bankrupting 11-year court saga — were immense.
And, until now, incomplete.
The last 12 plaintiffs to file claims against the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese resolved their civil cases in a January 2013 blanket settlement that lacked any public financial figures.
“The diocese has asked us not to specify the amount and we have agreed,” Burlington lawyer Jerome O’Neill, representing all but two of dozens of plaintiffs over the years, said at the time.
But in his new memoir, Dan Gilman of Rutland — who faced repeated abuse as a teenager while he was hospitalized for a paralyzing diving accident — reports the combined 2013 blanket settlement for the final dozen cases to be $6,750,000, with “each claimant’s amount to be decided by a special arbitrator.”
Add that to previous settlements to former Vermont altar boys and young male churchgoers and the state’s largest religious denomination has racked up a total priest misconduct bill of more than $30 million — a figure lawyers can now confirm, having agreed to nondisclosure until June 1, 2014.
When Vermont Catholics first learned of a national scandal in 2002, the state attorney general’s office reviewed allegations against 10 practicing and 30 past clergymen but didn’t charge anyone because the claims found credible were too old to prosecute under various criminal statutes of limitations.
Accusers, however, were free to file civil lawsuits. The church spent at least $2 million to end nine of the first cases before reaching a $20 million settlement to cap almost 30 more in 2010. (It also paid $135,000 in sanctions when its counsel prompted a mistrial in one case.)
Gilman was one of a dozen plaintiffs in a final round of lawsuits alleging that the diocese was negligent in hiring and supervising pedophile priests.
The diocese sold its historic 32-acre Burlington headquarters and 26-acre Camp Holy Cross in Colchester to help close the cases.
“In arriving at this settlement, the diocese wishes to assure the faithful that all monies raised for charitable purposes, including the annual Bishop’s Fund appeal, have not been used to meet the financial responsibility incurred from this and previous settlements,” church leaders have repeatedly said in statements.