Parishioners Ask Diocese for Information

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(Host) The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington says it’s been hearing from some parishioners who want to know if their priests are among those placed on administrative leave while under investigation by the Vermont attorney general.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Two weeks ago, the Diocese of Burlington placed six Vermont priests on administrative leave pending the outcome of the attorney general’s review of sexual misconduct allegations against them. Three of the priests have publicly confirmed they’re among the six. The other three have chosen to remain silent. Their silence is causing some people to wonder if a priest who might be on vacation or sick leave, is actually one of those suspended.

In Bellows Falls two weeks ago, parishioners arrived at Mass to find a notice from the Reverend Brian Mead, announcing that he was taking a medical leave. The parish council had met with Mead only two days earlier; Mead didn’t tell them he was leaving. One member of the council says it’s odd the priest didn’t mention his departure. The member, who didn’t want to be identified, thinks the diocese should clarify whether Mead is on medical leave or whether he is one of the priests under review.

Another member is Chris Hodsden. Hodsden is chair of the parish council. He says he’s willing to take Mead at his word. He says it’s understandable that the priest might not want to share information about his medical condition. But Hodsden says he will write to the diocese requesting more information.

(Hodsden) “It really isn’t something that I feel a need for, but there have been folks who have wondered about the timing of Father Mead’s medical leave with regards to the other issues within the Catholic Church. And if we can put some concerns to rest, to get some sort of confirmation from the Diocese, then I think that would be beneficial to everyone concerned.”

(Zind) Hodsden says in the years he’s been with the council he’s never before contacted the diocese. Parish councils advise priests, but have no voice in church policy or decisions about which priest is assigned to a parish.

The Reverend Wendell Searles is Vicar General of the Diocese. Searles says the diocese is hearing from some Vermont Catholics who are concerned that their priest may be one of the six suspended. But he says it’s unlikely the diocese will provide information to anxious parishioners in Bellow Falls or elsewhere.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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