Vermont Diocese Covered up Scandal

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
August 14, 2008

Bishop John Marshall in the late 1970s feared what would happen to the state's Roman Catholic diocese if people knew he had employed a priest who was molesting altar boys, a former diocesan chancellor acknowledged today.

Monsignor John McSweeney made the admission under questioning by Jerome O'Neill, an attorney representing a Waitsfield man who has sued the diocese, claiming that, as an altar boy in the late 1970s, he was molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette.

Bishop John Marshall, bishop of Vermont 1972-1992

"The concern was, if the people of this diocese knew that Father Paquette and other priests were molesting boys and that Bishop Marshall was covering it up, people would leave the diocese in droves, would they not?" O'Neill asked.

"That was what Bishop Marshall was worried about," McSweeney answered.

Moments later, O'Neill asked McSweeney if Marshall was more concerned about a scandal than he was the safety of children.

"He was worried about both," McSweeney said.

Marshall was the diocese bishop between 1972 and 1992. He died in 1994.

McSweeney's comments came near the end of the second day of the trial, following a review of court documents chronicling the hiring of Paquette by the diocese in 1972 despite reports that Paquette had molested boys at parishes in Massachusetts and Indiana.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Waitsfield man, now 40, Paquette fondled him between 20 and 50 times in the sacristy at Christ the King Church in Burlington. He claims he has suffered emotional and psychological harm from the abuse, plus sexual intimacy problems.

Another former Christ the King altar boy was awarded $8.7 million in damages following a six-day trial on nearly identical claims in May. The Free Press does not identify the victims of alleged sexual abuse without their consent.

The diocese claims the Waitsfield man waited too long before filing his lawsuit and did not try to mitigate the impact of the abuse over the years.


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