Catholic Schools Haven't Seen Fallout from Priest Scandal

By Patrick McCardle
RuTland Herald
August 24, 2019

The release of a list on Thursday of 40 Catholic Church clergy members who have been the subject of at least one “credible accusation” of sexually assaulting a minor has not affected local Catholic schools which are set to start their fall school year next week.

Whether the scandal, one of the latest involving the Catholic Church, will be discussed during Sunday’s services will be up to the priests at local churches, according to Monsignor John McDermott.

On Friday, Lisa Millard, the new principal at Christ the King School said she hadn’t gotten questions or comments based on the report.

The report, compiled by an independent committee requested by the Diocese of Burlington, listed 39 priests accused of misconduct during their tenure and one facing an out-of-state allegation. From that list, 20 had spent time assigned to Rutland County churches including Christ the King.

Millard said CKS could accommodate about 300 students. During the school year, which is set to begin Thursday, the student body is expected to be 201.

“That’s growing every year,” she said.

While an informational meeting is planned for early in the school year, Millard said she hadn’t decided whether she will address the report. As of Friday afternoon, she said no parents had talked about withdrawing students.

Mike Alexander, principal at Mount St. Joseph Academy, said he expected to start his school year on Thursday as well, with at least 77 students, and possibly one more student expected to join the school.

Alexander said the average number of students through the past 10 years has been 81 so the enrollment for the coming year is about what he expected.

Alexander said he had not heard any concerns in response to the report.

If he believed a meeting for parents on the topic was necessary, Alexander said, he would reach out to the diocese for direction.

McDermott said the diocese has not directed the priests at Vermont’s Catholic churches to respond in a specific way.

“Regarding this weekend at masses, priests are free to address the report if they choose to do so. The diocese has provided suggested prayers for the general intercessions in which victim-survivors are remembered. Each priest is free to decide how to acknowledge the report and the list,” McDermott said in an email.

Asked whether the church planned to provide support groups or services for either the victims of the sexual assaults or those with concerns about the Catholic church’s response, McDermott reported that Bishop Christopher Coyne during a Thursday news conference said staff members at the diocese encouraged them to “seek the help and support they need, including to seek help from the church.”

“For other parishioners who are struggling with this news, we have not discussed any support groups at the parish or diocesan level, but I know that there will be some parishes that will offer opportunities for parishioners to pray about and discuss this issue. Again, it will be up to the individual priest to determine how best to offer support to his parishioners,” McDermott said.

Coyne posted an essay Thursday to the Diocese of Burlington website explaining the report, the reason it was created, the goals it was expected to meet and his hope for the future.

“As has been the case for the past 17 years, I, along with the clergy, staff and volunteers of the diocese, are committed to supporting and caring for all victims of abuse and will continue to work to ensure safe environments for all God’s people — especially children, youth and vulnerable individuals — in which no form of harassment, sexual or otherwise, is tolerated,” Coyne wrote.

The essay has been sent to all Vermont churches to be included in all the parish bulletins for this weekend, McDermott said.

Millard, who said she’s been teaching at Catholic schools for 12 years, said scandals affecting the church are rarely raised at the schools.

“We’re not experts on the Catholic church. We would defer to the diocese, which is the expert, especially here in Vermont. The primary focus for us is educating children,” she said.

Millard said there are a number of programs in place to protect children from abuse at CKS. Some of the programs are intended to train adults to provide a safe environment for students and another is intended to give children the support they need to recognize and report potential abuse.

On Friday, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests released a statement asking the Diocese of Burlington to add the names of five clergy members. The five men were on a list of New York priests who had been the subject of at least one credible accusation.

However, only one name for the email could be matched to the list. A call to a SNAP member listed in the statement as a contact was not returned.

The Vermont diocese is aware of the SNAP statement and the request to add the names to the list is being considered.








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