Bishop Coyne tours the state to reach out to Catholics

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont's Catholic bishop is touring the state trying to win back some parishioners, especially after news of abuse cases.

"I was devastated," said Anna Gagne of St. Mary’s Parish in St. Albans. "I was devastated that people would be harmed like that."

Some 52 priests were accused of sexually assaulting minors in Vermont.

"You can't do anything about those guys instead of taking them as far away from children as possible," said Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

Coyne says those decades-old allegations have had a lingering impact on the Catholic Church, tarnishing its reputation and resulting in fewer people filling pews across the state.

"As many people that are leaving, it is going to take even longer to get them back," said Coyne.

Now, Coyne is traveling Vermont having those difficult conversations, hoping to regain trust from those losing faith in the diocese.

"I think that by having a conversation with people and someone says, 'I'm concerned that my grandchildren aren't safe in the church,' I can say to them, look, the church right now is probably one of the safest organizations for families and children in the United States," Coyne said.

The Burlington Diocese has faced scandal after scandal-- a Burlington orphanage run by the diocese accused of abuse and dozens of victims came forward with stories of molestation.

"They weren't careful about who was being ordained. They weren't doing any kind of psychological training or formation," said Coyne.

Bishop Coyne says times have changed. He says there has not been an accusation in Vermont in 16 years. Now, by sparking the conversation, he hopes to clear misconceptions about safety in the Catholic Church and win people's trust back.