More hypocrisy from the Vermont Catholic Diocese

VTDigger [Montpelier VT]

March 7, 2023

By Maura Labelle

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

Here we go again! 

First, the local Roman Catholic Diocese wanted to demolish the former Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to make sure the property would not be used for anything outside the teaching of the Catholic Church. This, despite the fact that no fewer than 10 priests there were on Bishop Christopher Coyne’s list of Catholic clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse. 

Now, it’s St. Stephen’s Church in Winooski that may be demolished for the same reason. At St. Stephen’s, four priests made Coyne’s list. 

Winooski was also home to the Sisters of Providence, who abused children at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, including me. According to a Feb. 16 report on WCAX, just as in Burlington, a group of Winooski citizens is trying to stop demolition of the church. 

Does anyone seriously think that, with a combined 14 priests on Coyne’s very own list of credibly accused priests, nothing inconsistent with church teaching had ever happened in either building? When will the church leadership come to terms with the fact that its moral authority has disappeared?

Bishop Coyne also needs to be asked how funds from both former churches will be used. But Coyne — or, as I call him, “COIN the moneyman” — can and will avoid using the money to do right by abuse victims, because of the actions of his predecessor, Bishop Salvatore Matano. The diocese’s treatment of abuse survivors is just plain mean. 

According to a 2019 VTDigger report by Kevin O’Connor, Matano placed Vermont’s 130 parishes in individual trusts to protect them from lawsuits related to sexual abuse. At the time, Matano wrote the following to concerned Catholics: “In such litigious times, it would be a gross act of mismanagement if I did not do everything possible to protect our parishes and the interests of the faithful from unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault.” 

As I’ve said before, the only unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assaults were by Catholic clergy against children. Do “COIN the moneyman” and Matano have no shame? Apparently not, as neither cares about making restitution to the victims of clergy abuse. They only care about holding on to every last penny.

Coyne has shown me multiple times that he doesn’t care about people who have endured abuse by Catholic clergy. After claiming time and time again that the diocese has no money for clergy abuse victims, he directed it to donate $50,000 to oppose Proposal 5 during last year’s elections. Coyne is Congressman George Santos in a Roman collar.

And why the continued secrecy about the buyer of the former Burlington cathedral? My guess is that the mystery buyer is probably not well liked by the community, and revelation of the buyer’s name would stir opposition to the sale. We all know what happens when the Catholic Church keeps secrets.