Diocese Releases Records to Attorney General

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(Host) The Catholic Diocese of Burlington said Tuesday that six Vermont priests will be placed on administrative leave. The church said it is taking the action while Vermont’s attorney general investigates allegations of sexual misconduct against the priests. VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The announcement was made following a five and a half hour meeting between the lawyer for the church and Vermont law enforcement officials, including Attorney General William Sorrell. In the meeting, the church gave the attorney general all the information it considers credible on alleged sexual abuse by any living Vermont priest.

William O’Brien, the lawyer for the diocese, says the allegations date back to the 1950s and involve 20 past and current priests. O’Brien says past church investigations have resulted in the suspension of eight priests. He says one priest was defrocked in 1981 for having sex with teenage boys. And O’Brien disclosed that six priests who have been accused of past sexual impropriety are still serving:

(O’Brien) “As to those six priests who are in ministry – they will be placed on an administrative leave. There are some ecclesiastical requirements that we have to satisfy initially, but imminently, those six men will be placed on administrative leave. The attorney general has given us his assurances that he will place those particular cases on a priority basis and will investigate fully on a priority basis those claims, so that we can, if the circumstances warrant, return those men to ministry as soon as possible.”

(Zind) O’Brien says the allegations against the priests date from the late 1960s to the early or mid 1980s. He says the church had looked into the allegations against the six priests at the time they were made. O’Brien says the six continued in the ministry only after the church had conducted a full investigation and decided the facts did not warrant their removal. He says one of the priests was also the subject of an investigation by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

O’Brien also says the church will also waive confidentiality agreements it has made with victims of alleged abuse. The agreements were made in exchange for financial settlements paid to those individuals. Sorrell had asked the church to waive the agreements.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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