Timeline: Key Developments in Claims of Abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington

Burlington Free Press
May 13, 2010

Key developments in claims of abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington:

JUNE 1993: A former Montpelier man who says he was sexually and physically abused by a nun in the 1950s while in a Burlington orphanage sues the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. The diocese settles the claims in 1996. Details of the settlement are not disclosed.

SPRING 1996: Bishop Kenneth Angell offers $5,000 to former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage who claim they were abused as children by nuns and others. More than 60 agree to the offer in return for a promise not to sue.

1997: Diocese settles a case brought by a woman who claimed as a young girl she was raped by the Rev. Benjamin Wysolmerski in the early 1960s, and then raped again by him in the late 1970s when she was married. Details not disclosed.

DECEMBER 2002: Chittenden Superior Court Judge Matthew Katz rules the diocese must turn over 52 years’ worth of records on any sexual conduct by any priests as part of a lawsuit that alleges sexual abuse.

MARCH 2004: The church agrees to pay $120,000 to a St. Albans man. Plaintiff alleged Rev. James McShane sexually abused him when he was a parochial school student in St. Albans in about 1970.

APRIL 2004: The Church agrees to a $170,000 settlement with victim who alleged the Rev. Alfred Willis molested him as a 13-year-old while he was attending St. Ann Catholic Church in Milton in the late 1970s.

APRIL 2006: Diocese settles for $965,000 a lawsuit brought by a South Burlington man who alleged the Rev. Edward Paquette abused him in 1978 when he was a young boy receiving religious education from the priest at Christ the King Church in Burlington.

JUNE 2007: The case of a Virginia man who alleged he was molested him as a teenager in 1977 by a Vermont priest goes to trial. All previous Vermont cases involving pedophile priest claims ended prior to trial. Trial ends in mistrail, but a second trial results in jury award of $15,000.

MAY 2008: A Burlington jury orders diocese to pay $8.7 million in damages to a former Burlington altar boy fondled multiple times by Paquette. The reward is the largest monetary award in the collection of Vermont clergy abuse filed over the past decade and is believed to be one of the largest awards ever issued in Vermont in a state court civil lawsuit. The diocese appeals.

SEPTEMBER 2009: Paquette, accused in 23 lawsuits of molesting altar boys, admits his crimes and apologizes for his actions. “I get help from God to help me get through this. I feel sorry for the people and the families who have been hurt through this.”

TODAY: Diocese, plaintiffs announce payments of $17.6 million to settle 26 outstanding abuse lawsuits. Additionally, two cases tried and awarded multi-million-dollar verdicts by juries and under appeal, will be settled separately, bringing the total cost to more than $20 million.


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