December 22 2018
By Kevin O’Connor
The Vermont Catholic Church suddenly and surprisingly has settled a priest misconduct lawsuit filed just this month that threatened to spur a jury trial and potential multimillion-dollar verdict.
Lawyer Jerome O’Neill submitted civil papers Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in Burlington on behalf of a former Vermont man now living in Texas who alleges he was sexually abused as a child by Alfred Willis, a former priest for the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese from 1975 until his dismissal in 1985.
The accuser, who asked not to be named, was an altar boy at Milton’s St. Ann parish when the claims took place four decades ago. But the Vermonter, who went on to move out of state, didn’t learn until last year that the diocese had tried to cover up its role and therefore could be legally liable.
The state’s largest religious denomination had hoped to have heard the last of such lawsuits in 2013 after paying more than $30 million in settlements to cap a near-bankrupting 11-year string of 40 headline-grabbing cases.
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