Man Fasts, Holds Vigil for Victims of Church Abuse

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(Host) For nearly three weeks one man has stood in front of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Burlington protesting church handling of priests accused of sexual abuse of children.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the man claims he has a personal stake in how the church deals with victims of abuse.

(Zind) Rain or shine, Richard Archambault maintains his vigil from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the offices of the Burlington Diocese. He sits in a chair along the narrow strip of grass that separates the sidewalk and the street. A yellow banner calls for justice for the victims of pedophile priests. Archambault says he’s demonstrating and fasting to protest the way the Roman Catholic church has dealt with abusive priests and their victims.

The forty-three year old Archambault says he was victimized by a priest in the early 1970s, when he was an altar boy in Providence, Rhode Island. Archambault says he is demonstrating in Burlington because Vermont Bishop Kenneth Angell was Bishop of the Providence Diocese at the time. Archambault says at one point during his vigil, Bishop Angell came to talk with him.

(Archambault) “I asked him a point blank question when he came out here and talked to me. Was this priest reported as a pedophile during his tenure? He looked me in the eye and said, ‘No, absolutely not.’ And so I have to believe that he was telling the truth at that time.”

(Zind) But Archambault questions whether Angell knew about other Rhode Island priests who abused children. Angell is listed as a defendant in a number of lawsuits in Providence. They allege he did not respond to complaints of sexual abuse by priests under his direction. Archambault wants Angell to give the priests’ names and information about them to authorities. Angell has denied any knowledge of sexual misconduct by the priests.

Archambault also says he wants the church to provide him and other victims with financial compensation. The Reverend Wendell Searles of the Burlington Diocese says the Bishop can’t help Archambault with his demands because they involve another diocese.

(Searles) “We feel for the man and we want to be gentle with him. There’s no way that we’re in a position to give him what he’s seeking.”

(Zind) Archambault says before he came to Burlington, he took his grievances to the diocese in Providence.

(Archambault) “In fact, I’m here at the suggestion of one of the aides to Bishop Mulvey in Providence who said Bishop Angell was the bishop in Providence at the time you were molested, so why are you here? Why don’t you go up there and do it.”

(Zind) Armchambault says he plans to remain in front of the diocese indefinitely. He says most passersby have been supportive of his vigil.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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