Settlement reached in Vt. priest abuse lawsuits - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Settlement reached in Vt. priest abuse lawsuits

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Edward Paquette Edward Paquette

"Many people who have walked away from this diocese because of the way it has treated the survivors," lawyer Jerry O'Neill said.

A Rutland native says he was molested by Rev. Edward Paquette back in 1974. The former altar boy was 12 when the alleged abuse took place. As an adult, he sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, claiming it knew Paquette had a history of child sex abuse when the priest was brought on board in 1972. The federal trial was supposed to start Wednesday morning, but the diocese offered a cash settlement at the last minute in this case and 10 others that were pending in Superior Court.

"It's never a win," O'Neill said. "When you're sexually molested as a child you never win, no matter how much money you get."

O'Neill represents the plaintiffs. He would not disclose how much the diocese will have to pay, but says his clients are happy with the settlement.

"What it does is it permits them some level of vindication," O'Neill said. "Someone recognized that what had been done to them was awful, has made some attempt to compensate them."

This is the second multicase settlement for the diocese. In 2010 it paid $17.6 million to settle 26 lawsuits. O'Neill says this diocese has fought more case like this in court than any other diocese the country.

"We have picked juries in seven cases. We've tried six of them. No other diocese around the country has tried cases at the rate that this diocese has done," O'Neill said.

O'Neill does not believe that there are likely to be many more cases arising from abuse allegations of priests Paquette, Alfred Willis or Joseph Dussault, all of whom were named in the latest round of lawsuits.

"The reason is because in April 2006 a court released a protective order and all the documents showing that the diocese was knowledgeable about what the priests were doing took place. Six years have passed. That's the primary statute of limitations," O'Neill explained.

After this story aired on the 6 p.m. news, the diocese released this statement:

On January 9, 2013, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington settled the remaining lawsuits of clerical sexual misconduct against a minor dating back several decades.
"After consideration of all the facts and of legal counsel, it was decided the prudent course of action for all parties concerned was to settle the cases," Thomas McCormick, one of the attorneys for the Diocese, stated.
In arriving at this settlement, the Diocese wishes to assure the faithful that all monies raised for charitable purposes, including the annual Bishop's Fund Appeal, have not been used to meet the financial responsibility incurred from this and previous settlements.
The Diocese once again reiterated its deep regret for the hurt the plaintiffs experienced, and offered prayers for the plaintiffs, and for all victims of sexual abuse, hopeful that they will bless the Church once again with their presence among the Church community.

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