Dec. 29 2019
By Kevin O’Connor
Vermont Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne had hoped 2019 would be the year the church’s history of priest misconduct would stop making headlines.
Coyne, the former spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston in the aftermath of the 2002 scandal dramatized in the Oscar-winning “Spotlight,” seemed to have shed the past when he became head of the Green Mountain State’s largest religious denomination in 2015.
That changed a year and a half ago when BuzzFeed posted a story about the “unrelenting physical and psychological abuse of captive children” at the Vermont diocese’s long-shuttered St. Joseph’s Orphanage, which operated in Burlington from 1854 to 1974.
The local press already had reported most of the facts in the 1990s, while authorities have yet to confirm BuzzFeed’s most shocking claim — that a nun supposedly threw a boy out a window to his death three-quarters of a century ago. But that didn’t stop the story from sparking calls for investigation.
Coyne shocked those accustomed to decades of church stonewalling by scheduling a press conference a day before another set by police and prosecutors. There he pledged to work with authorities before going on to release accusers from past nondisclosure agreements and form a lay committee to review clergy misconduct files and publicly release the names of offenders.
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