Church Insurer Wants to Investigate Abuse Allegations

WCAX [Vermont]
January 16, 2007

Burlington, Vt. -- An insurance company for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington wants to investigate the church's conduct in 27 cases of alleged child sex abuse by a former priest before paying the costs of litigation associated with them.

The state's Roman Catholic church has sued its insurer demanding it pay its legal fees.

In court papers filed last week, the Minnesota-based United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. requested a review of how much the diocese knew about allegations that former priest Ed Paquette had sexually abused alter boys in two states before he came to Vermont.

The Diocese agreed to permit the investigation as long as the information remained confidential.

Evidence arose last year that indicated the church knew about the past abuse allegations when it hired Paquette and moved him to two other churches before dismissing him in 1978 following new allegations.

Nine former priests are accused in the 27 lawsuits against the church, and Paquette is named in most of them.

In April, the church settled a Paquette lawsuit for $965,000 and then put its 128 parishes in individual charitable trusts to protect them from other lawsuits.

The insurer has agreed to pay the legal fees in the Paquette cases but says it does not have to cover the cost of financial settlements if it can prove the church knew of and allowed Paquette's abuse.


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