Maura Labelle: Consider actions of Cathedral 10 in sale of church property

VTDigger [Montpelier VT]

January 19, 2023

This commentary is by Maura Labelle of Colchester, who was a resident of St. Joseph’s Orphanage in the 1960s.

Ihave read with interest VTDigger’s recent coverage of the potential destruction of the former Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Burlington.

In my view, the building is ugly, but I completely understand why Preservation Burlington is concerned with the secrecy of the Diocese of Burlington regarding its buyer for the property. We all know that the diocese is good at keeping secrets, as for decades it covered up child abuse by pedophile priests. 

Just as the public had the right to know the names of credibly accused pedophile priests, residents of Burlington should also be told who is buying the property and what its new purpose will be.

The diocese has been steadfast in its view that the property should not be used for any purpose that would violate the morals of the Catholic Church. However, that has likely already happened.

In August 2019, Bishop Christopher Coyne held a press conference where he released his report on priest sex abuse cases in the diocese. Of the 40 priests named in the report, no fewer than 10 of them had worked in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

The 10 who had worked at the Cathedral are Robert Baffa, Paul Bresnahan, James Campbell, Edward Foster, William Gallagher, Michael Madden, Brian Mead, George Murtaugh, Emile Savery and Charles Towne.

I can only imagine how many children might have been abused at this parish by members of the Cathedral 10. I’m disgusted just thinking about it.

Given that so many credibly abused priests worked at this church, I believe that the proceeds from its sale should be used to benefit those who were abused by Catholic clergy. 

The community itself would benefit by removal of the former church, just as it would have been helpful to so many abuse victims to tear down St. Joseph’s Orphanage. Bishop Coyne also recently solicited faithful Catholics to contribute to this year’s Bishop’s Fund collection. That money should also be directed to clergy abuse victims as a meaningful apology to them.

I hope that the secret buyer of this property will insist that the money from its sale go to victims of clergy abuse, as I am confident that Bishop Coyne will have no interest in making that happen. He really should change the spelling of his last name to Coin, as, in my opinion, money is his primary interest.