Vermont Diocese Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit with Former Mass. Man

Associated Press State & Local Wire
October 15, 2003

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has agreed to settle the first of several lawsuits charging Vermont priests with child abuse.

The diocese will pay Paul Babeu, a 34-year-old former Berkshire County, Mass., county commissioner, an unspecified sum, according to Babeu's lawyer, Thomas Bixby of Brattleboro.

The diocese's lawyer, William O'Brien of Winooski, confirmed the agreement but declined further comment Tuesday.

Bixby said Tuesday that the amount was "relatively low.' Although Bixby didn't report the specific financial settlement, he confirmed it was a low five-figure sum.

"But for Paul, it was never about the money, it was getting the church to recognize what they did was wrong. From our perspective, this is a recognition the church knew what happened to Paul was wrong," Bixby said.

Babeu, who now lives in Arizona, was a North Adams city councilor from 1987 to 1989 and served as a Berkshire County commissioner between 1993 and 1997.

Babeu said he was 15 when the Rev. George Paulin, who resigned as Ludlow pastor this year, sexually abused him on an overnight visit to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom during a school vacation in December 1984 and January 1985.

Paulin's lawyer, Fred Glover of Ludlow, didn't return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

Babeu filed his lawsuit against the priest and the diocese in Chittenden Superior Court last December.

"The reason Paul came forward is to prevent this from happening to other kids," Bixby said. "This is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, no other children will be victims of these priests who need help. But we don't think this is the end of the story. We think there are other victims out there."

Babeu's settlement with the Vermont diocese won't stop his lawsuits against Paulin, former Massachusetts priest Richard Lavigne and the Springfield, Mass., diocese.

Lavigne pleaded guilty in 1992 to fondling two altar boys in an unrelated case and served 10 years probation.

Babeu alleges that Lavigne drove an unsuspecting Babeu to northern Vermont to leave him alone with Paulin. Babeu alleges the Springfield diocese knew about Lavigne's offenses but did not stop him.

Officials from the diocese have said the first complaint they received about Lavigne was in 1986. They have said that Lavigne underwent a mental health evaluation and was determined to pose no threat to the Parish. The next complaint against Lavigne came in 1991, a year before his arrest, officials have said.

Babeu had included the Vermont diocese in his lawsuits because he said his family had reported his allegations to former Vermont Catholic Bishop John Marshall.

Marshall wrote that he had discussed the report with Paulin and he had denied the allegations.

Babeu heard nothing more for 16 years, until Vermont's Catholic diocese said last year it was placing Paulin on leave at the same time the state attorney general's office began investigating decades alleged priest misconduct.

The Vermont diocese still faces at least three other civil lawsuits in Chittenden Superior Court.

The Vermont attorney general's office has investigated allegations against eight recently practicing priests and 30 former colleagues.


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