Diocese Won't Be Part of Vermont Suit Involving Ex-Troy Priest
By Larry Neumeister
NEW YORK >> A federal appeals court directed a lower
court to dismiss the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany from a
Vermont sex-abuse lawsuit Friday, saying it did not have enough
connection to Vermont to subject it to substantial
confidentiality interests at stake in the litigation that would
likely force the diocese to divulge sensitive documents about
sexual abuse investigations.
The lawsuit was brought by a man who said he was
abused by a former priest in Vermont in the late 1980s when the
priest transported him from New York to Vermont to sexually
Gary Mercure of Troy was sentenced in 2011 to 20 to 25
years in state prison after he was convicted of raping two altar
boys in western Massachusetts between 1986 and 1989, while he
was a priest in the Diocese of Albany. He was defrocked in 2008.
Mercure had denied the allegations and his lawyers said the
complainants were coached into making abuse claims.
In ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said
the Diocese of Albany did not have enough ties to Vermont to
subject the diocese to the lawsuit. The appeals panel noted that
the diocese operates no office or facility in Vermont and its
percentage of contacts with Vermont compared to its activities
in New York are trivial.
It said the diocese served a total of 78 parishioners
who lived in Vermont from 2002 through 2012, when six of the
diocese’s more than 100 parishes were located near the Vermont
border. The 2nd Circuit said those parishioners constituted 2.2
percent of the six parishes’ combined registered parishioners.
The appeals court said it was proper to dismiss the
diocese as a defendant, noting “the irreparable harm caused by a
needless foray into prior abuse allegations within the diocese,
exposing victims and their families to grueling inquiries that
would not be undertaken in the absence of the district court’s
The appeals court said a lower court judge had issued
an order requiring the diocese to disclose investigations of
child sexual abuse involving the diocese’s employees, including
the identifying names and addresses of investigators and
summaries of the oral and written statements taken during the
course of the investigation.
“There is no evidence that this information has
previously been disclosed,” the appeals court wrote. “The cat is
still in the bag, and the ensuing litigation will inevitably let
It said the claims brought in Vermont would not be
allowed by New York state law because the statute of limitations
would have precluded it.
An attorney for the man who brought the lawsuit did
not immediately respond to a message.
In a statement, the Albany Diocese said the ruling
“speaks for itself.”
“We would only wish to again stress that sexual abuse
of a minor is a crime and an egregious sin, and that this
Catholic community is deeply concerned about the well-being of
anyone who has suffered abuse at any time or anywhere,” it said.
“The Albany Diocese long ago embraced its moral obligation to
assist individuals abused at any time by Albany Diocese clergy,
and we again would welcome the opportunity to offer assistance
in this case.”