Doctor Says Abuse Led to Anxiety Disorder

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
December 11, 2008

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

A former altar boy twice molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette in the 1970s has suffered from recurring bouts of anxiety as an adult because of the abuse, a Burlington psychologist told a Chittenden Superior Court jury Wednesday.

Dr. Joseph Hasazi said the former altar boy, now a 43-year-old businessman from Takoma Park, Md., had other stresses in his life, but his decision to not tell anyone what Paquette did to him for years afterward shows how deeply the molestations affected him.

"I do give greater weight to the abuse experience," Hasazi testified during the trial's sixth day. "It is more likely this put him at risk for psychological problems." Hasazi said the man continues to suffer from a "generalized anxiety disorder" because of self doubt caused by the abuse incidents.

The man is suing the state's Roman Catholic diocese, claiming it is responsible for the abuse because it hired Paquette knowing he had a history of molesting boys. The man said his molestations took place inside Christ the King Church in Burlington.

Paquette, who is retired and lives in Westfield, Mass., is not a defendant in the case. The Free Press does not publish the names of alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

The diocese does not dispute the abuse occurred but contends the man waited too long to file his lawsuit.

Diocesan lawyer Tom McCormick questioned Hasazi about how the abuse, rather than other, more pressing personal and professional issues in the man's life, could be to blame for the anxiety disorder.

"Are you saying his fear of losing his business, that that was due to the fondling?" McCormick asked. Hasazi said it was, because the man's reaction to such stress was to overreact and to question his self worth.

"His reaction was, 'If I fail, my life is over. It's the end of the road for me,'" Hasazi said.

Also testifying on the man's behalf Wednesday were three former altar boys who described how they also were molested by Paquette.

One of the men who served as an altar boy at Christ the King Church said Paquette molested him at the church, his family's home, summer camp and inside a movie theater.

In all, 19 men have sued the diocese alleging that, as altar boys, they were molested by Paquette at either Christ the King Church in Burlington or St. Augustine's Church in Montpelier.

Four of the cases were settled out of court. Another case ended in May with an $8.7 million jury verdict. That case has since been appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.


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