Diocese official says church didn’t investigate priest’s background

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A high-ranking former Diocese of Burlington official says the Diocese didn’t fully look into the background of a priest who allegedly went on to molest boys in Vermont — even though the church was warned by the priest’s former bishop.

Reverend John McSweeney took the stand yesterday in Chittenden County Superior Court.

McSweeney said Diocesan officials never looked into the Reverend Edward Paquette’s time in the Fall River, Massachusetts diocese. Paquette was accused of molesting boys before being transferred to Indiana and finally Vermont. Instead, he says, church officials relied on representations made by psychiatrists who thought Paquette could be cured.

A lawyer for a 40-year-old former altar boy at Christ the King Church in Burlington says the church had fair warning about Paquette but hired him anyway. The victim says the church then transferred him once similar allegations were made in Vermont.

The former altar boy is suing the Diocese, saying it engaged in negligent supervision. The church’s lawyer told jurors yesterday that it’s impossible to apply today’s knowledge of sexual abuse crimes to the actions of church officials 30 years ago. 

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