Diocese Tried to Confront Sex Abuse by Priests in "90s

By Sam Hemingway
Free Press

December 13, 2008

The state's Roman Catholic diocese assembled a program in 1995 to handle sexual abuse of children by priests and later hired a former Burlington police chief to oversee the effort, the jury in a clergy abuse case learned this week.

"I brought along all of my law enforcement experience," Kevin Scully, chief of the city's police department from 1987 to 1998, told the jury. Scully joined the diocese in 2001 as its director of safe environment.

The program included establishment of a priest misconduct review board charged with investigating allegations of child molestation by priests referred to the panel by the bishop, Scully said.

The testimony came as the trial on claims a former Burlington altar boy was twice molested by the Rev. Edward Paquette in the late 1970s completed its eighth day at Chittenden Superior Court.

The diocese is hoping the evidence provided by Scully and other witnesses testifying on behalf of the diocese will blunt claims by lawyers for the victim, now a Takoma Park Md., businessman, that the diocese did little to address sexual misconduct by priests over the years.

Scully told the jury that under the plan adopted by the diocese, it would notify police about any molestation allegations received by the bishop. At the same time, the bishop would forward the allegation to the board for investigation and a recommendation for action.

Jerome O'Neill, a lawyer representing the former altar boy, questioned Scully on the performance of the program, at one point getting Scully to concede that then-Bishop Kenneth Angell chose not to alert the board about a molestation complaint Angell received in 1996.

"Is their any record that the bishop informed the board?" O'Neill asked Scully.

"I do not see anything, Mr. O'Neill," Scully responded.

O'Neill also questioned Scully about internal records the diocese turned over to the state Attorney General's Office in 2002. O'Neill said the diocese's decision at the same time to suspend six priests suspected of engaging in sexual misconduct showed the diocese had not followed its rule about notifying police about possible child molesters in its ranks.

"What the bishop did totally ignored the church's own policies in effect at the time," O'Neill said.

"Yes," Scully answered.

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


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