Burlington Roman Catholic Diocese Target of Lawsuit Accusing Ex-priest of Sexual Abuse
By Elizabeth Murray
Burlington Free Press
December 11, 2018
A man who says he was sexually abused as a boy by a priest serving at St. Ann Catholic Church in Milton has filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington alleging negligence, fraud, and "outrageous conduct."
The man is asking for in excess of $75,000 in damages, in addition to any other damages deemed appropriate by a jury.
The lawsuit alleges that the Diocese's actions in the man's case were "utterly reprehensible, egregious and patently outrageous," according to the legal complaint filed Friday.
Diocese of Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne said in an emailed statement that the filing is "further evidence that we still have much to do to bring healing and closure to the survivors who have suffered sexual abuse by clergy in our past."
"I wish that this particular case did not have to move forward in this way but I will do everything that I can to bring it to a just conclusion for all involved," Coyne wrote. He added, "In the meantime, I continue to be open to meeting with any survivor and their families to listen and help as I can. It is my hope that these kinds of conversations will continue to assist my brothers and sisters who have been hurt by those they should have been able to trust the most.”
Lawsuit: Catholic priest's abuse caused man lasting pain, loss of income
The man was an altar boy and parishioner at St. Ann's Parish in Milton in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to the complaint.
The man, who now lives in Texas, said he did not discover he had a personal legal action to bring against the Diocese until 2017. His complaint states that he has suffered "pain, emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries."
The Burlington Free Press does not name people who say they were victims of sex crimes without their permission. The man, through his lawyer Jerome O'Neill, has said he prefers that the Free Press does not use his name.
According to the complaint, the man says his injuries and conditions stemming from the abuse prevent him from performing normal daily activities, enjoying life, and have caused him to lose income and earning capacity.
Complaints of abuse by priest surfaced at three Vermont parishes
The man says he was one of the victims of Father Alfred Willis, who was the subject of several other abuse complaints that were settled in the early 2000s. One of those complaints by another then-13-year-old boy who also attended St. Ann's Parish was settled for $170,000 in 2004, according to Free Press archives.
|A mimeographed copy of an undated mug shot of former priest Alfred Willis. A former altar boy at St. Ann Catholic Church filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, 2018, alleging that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington failed to protect him from sexual abuse by Willis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL, Free Press)|
The most recent complaint states that allegations of abusing boys were made against Willis at several parishes, including in Burlington, Montpelier and Milton, and that the suspicions were brought to the attention of then-Bishop John Marshall. After the allegations surfaced for the third time while he served in Milton in 1980, he was suspended and sent to New Mexico for therapy.
Willis was eventually dismissed from the priesthood after appearing for trial before a Burlington Diocese Tribunal in 1985.
Contact Elizabeth Murray at 651-4835 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter