Edmundites to Pay up in Priest Sex-abuse Lawsuit
By Adam Silverman
Burlington Free Press
January 18, 2018
A Colchester-based religious order is among several Roman Catholic institutions that recently settled a priest sex abuse lawsuit in Connecticut for nearly $1 million.
The court case centered on misconduct claims involving defrocked priest Charles Many, a Vermont native and St. Michaelís College graduate who helped lead parishes in Essex Junction and in Groton, Connecticut, and was a member of the Society of St. Edmund.
The society and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich in Connecticut agreed to split the $900,000 settlement paid to Andrew Aspinwall, 50, of New London, said his lawyer, Kelly Reardon. The agreement, which Aspinwall and the defendants reached on the eve of a trial that was set to begin early this month, contained no admission of wrongdoing.
Many "vehemently denies doing anything inappropriate with anybody," said Reardon, who has questioned the former priest as part of the legal proceedings. But she said Aspinwall's allegations of being molested by Many in the late 1970s and early 1980s at Sacred Heart Church in Groton, Connecticut, and being raped in a chapel at a nearby Catholic retreat changed his life and continue to affect him.
"He has struggled throughout his life with periods of depression, with a lot of anxiety surrounding things that might seem unusual for a man, like fear of the dark, fear of unknown people, fear of loud noises. He has that sort of 'startle' reflex, particularly because of the incident that occurred in the chapel," Reardon said. "He's had a lot of issues with his faith and belief in God."
The Burlington Free Press typically does not name people who say they were victims of sexual misconduct unless they agree to be identified, which Aspinwall has.
society previously told the Free Press that Many was released from his vows and returned to lay status in 1995.
Misconduct claims involving Many have circulated for more than three decades and prompted at least one other lawsuit, a federal case filed in 1996 in Connecticut that resulted in an $850,000 verdict against the former priest. But the case was overturned on appeal, and the victim was unable to afford the costs of continuing the lawsuit, according to Burlington Free Press reporting at the time.
Many arrived at Sacred Heart in 1978 after the Edmundites, who provided clergy for the parish, named him an assistant priest, Reardon said.
Aspinwall was an altar boy, Reardon said.
"The allegations were that Charles Many after every service would take him aside and engage in inappropriate behavior, such as touching, fondling and so forth," Reardon said. The assaults began in early 1979 and escalated to the rape in Mystic, Connecticut, the lawyer said in recounting Aspinwall's allegations.
|Members of the Society of St. Edmund served as chaplains at this church at Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester in the 1950s. (Photo: Courtesy St. Michaelís College)|
The Edmundites removed Many from Sacred Heart in 1981 for unclear reasons, Reardon said. The earlier federal lawsuit also involved allegations of misconduct at Sacred Heart, and Reardon said she had lined up parishioners and parents from the church "who were prepared to testify at trial that they had complained to the authorities within the church that this priest was engaging in inappropriate behavior."
Many was transferred to St. Lawrence Church in Essex Junction in 1981. According to Free Press reporting about the former priest in 2002, the official reason for Many's transfer was a theological dispute with a fellow priest at the Connecticut parish.
Court records from that case state Many continued to abuse adolescent boys in Vermont during the next five years, until a parishioner contacted the state Catholic diocese to raise concerns, according to Free Press reporting. The former priest told the Free Press in 2002 that he never molested anyone.
Reardon ó who worked as a television news reporter in Burlington in the 2000s before becoming a lawyer ó said Aspinwall went on to a long career as a correctional officer in Connecticut and retired around 2010. He brought the lawsuit shortly before he turned 48, the deadline under Connecticut law for making such claims.
The defendants were the Society of St. Edmund, the Diocese of Norwich, its former bishop, Sacred Heart Church and Many, court records show.
Under the settlement, Many was removed as a defendant, the sides agreed to pay their own costs, and Aspinwall dropped the lawsuit.
Court documents in Connecticut show the case was withdrawn Wednesday.