The legacy of pain and shame created by Catholic Priest Father Edward Paquette is coming to something of a resolution. Paquette was alleged to have molested numerous children and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington was accused of having covered up his crimes.
Lawyer Jerry O’Neill stated that “Many people who have walked away from this diocese because of the way it has treated the survivors.” Among those who sued the Burlington Diocese was a Rutland native who says that Paquette began molesting him at the age of twelve back in 1974. The federal trial was set to start Wednesday morning, but the settlement was reached at the last minute. O’Neill spoke truly saying that “It’s never a win. When you’re sexually molested as a child you never win, no matter how much money you get.”
It is unlikely that there will be any more cases involving Paquette, Alfred Willis or Joseph Dussault, all priests accused of molesting children, and all named in this latest round of lawsuits. According to O’Neill “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.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington issued a statement reading that:
“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.
David Clohessy, the Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement saying:
We are glad these brave victims will be spared the stress of a trial. And we are grateful to those who were courageous enough to step forward and wise enough to seek justice in court. We hope this settlement will help bring them sorely-needed closure and healing.
At the same time, however, no single event can magically erase decades of pain. So we strongly urge these victims to continue in therapy, twelve step programs and support groups. Long after the checks are cut and the public forgets about these cases, these deeply wounded victims will likely still need help coping with the often life-altering impact of horrific childhood betrayal.
At the same time, we are disappointed in the Vermont Catholic hierarchy. Why can’t they help suffering victims promptly and without the pressure of an impending trial?
And how long have they known of but kept secret about credible child sex abuse allegations against Fr. Dussault (who, we believe, has never been publicly accused before). Whatever became of the repeated promises by Catholic bishops to be ‘open and transparent’ about child sex cases?
Every settlement like this is a mixed bag. On one hand, a resolution like this helps victims move forward. At the same time, however, it prevents the complicity of Catholic officials from being publicly exposed in court.
We hope that anyone who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Paquette, Fr. Willis and Fr. Dussault will step forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoing and start healing. And we hope that Vermont citizens and Catholics will see that Catholic officials continue to be secretive about clergy sex crimes and responsive to victims largely only when facing external pressure to do so.