Plaintiff in Priest Sexual Abuse Case Testifies

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
May 9, 2008

The man suing the state's Roman Catholic diocese for its role in his molestation as an altar boy by the Rev. Edward Paquette told a Burlington jury Wednesday he knew what was happening was wrong but didn't know what to do about it.

"I never tried to resist," he said when asked if he tried to prevent Paquette from fondling him. "It wasn't an option at the time. ... It's like resisting your parents when they were trying to reprimand you. He's a priest. He's the next closest thing to God."

The man, speaking slowly and without outward emotion, said the molestation incidents occurred between 40 and 100 times over a two-year period and took place inside the sacristy at Christ the King Church in Burlington in the late 1970s.

He said he was among a number of altar boys at the church fondled by Paquette. He said the fondling involved Paquette's picking an altar boy up, grasping him in the genitals and buttocks' area with his hands and swinging him in the air or bouncing him on his lap.

He was always at least partially clothed when the fondling took place. He said he could tell that Paquette, who the boys nicknamed "Father Pockets," was sexually aroused during the incidents.

"It was not pleasurable," he said of the incidents. "There were two aspects to it. I mean your testicles quite often would hurt after he would grapple you that hard and, two, just on a mental note, we knew it wasn't right. You don't be touching people in those areas."

The man said that as an adult he has had emotional and sexual intimacy problems and won't allow himself to be touched in the genital area.

The testimony came during the fourth day in the trial. The man, now 40 and living in Lakewood, Colo., is seeking financial damages from the diocese for putting Paquette, who had a history of molesting boys, in a position to sexually abuse him.

The Burlington Free Press does not disclose the identity of alleged victims of sexual crimes without their consent.

The diocese does not dispute that Paquette molested altar boys in Vermont but has argued that it depended on the advice of clerical psychologists when it hired Paquette and should not be held liable now for incidents that occurred 30 or more years ago.

The diocese suspended Paquette from priestly duties in 1978 after parents at Christ the King Church complained to Bishop John Marshall about Paquette. Now retired and living in Westfield, Mass., Paquette is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

The man said it felt like Christmas when, in the spring of 1978, Paquette suddenly wasn't around any more. He said he had nightmares in which Paquette would be chasing him, but the bad dreams subsided by the time he was in high school.

Under questioning by Kaveh Shahi, a diocesan lawyer, the man acknowledged that he has had a successful business career and is now happily married.

"It's fair to say by all appearances you have a very nice life," Shahi asked him.

"That's fair to say," the man replied.

Later, the man conceded to Shahi that he has long understood that Paquette's molestation of him had something to do with anger problems and bouts of anxiety and depression that he has experienced as an adult.

"I correlated some anger issues toward the church with the molestation," he said.

Shahi then asked him to explain how, in a court affidavit filed with the court earlier this year, he claimed he didn't connect emotional problems he had with the Paquette molestation incidents until recently.

"The way I read that statement is I wasn't aware of the diocese's negligence until 2003 or after," the man responded.

The issue of when the man understood the impact of Paquette's conduct is critical to the diocese's statute of limitations argument, a legal rule that sets a six-year window for filing a claim after becoming aware of the damage from such incidents.

Later Thursday, a South Burlington clinical psychologist testifying on behalf of the man said the man's anxiety, alcohol usage, depression and sexual intimacy issues were related to the molestation and serious enough to require treatment.

Shahi disputed Joseph Hasazi's analysis. He noted one finding in Hasazi's report that the man's anxiety problems included having a phobia about public speaking.

"He did pretty good speaking here today, didn't he?" Shahi asked.

"Yes," Hasazi said.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at


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