Sorrell Expects Full Report from Burlington Diocese

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(Host) The number of sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests in Vermont continues to climb, according to Attorney General William Sorrell. In addition, Sorrell expects the church to provide him with all the information it has on sexual misconduct by priests, regardless of how long ago the incidents took place. Sorrell says he anticipates the details to be turned over at a meeting later this week.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) It’s still not clear how many sexual abuse charges against Vermont priests have surfaced in recent weeks. Church and law enforcement officials have declined to give a specific number, but it appears to be more than a dozen. Some of the calls came to the Attorney General’s office. Others came to the Chittenden County State’s Attorney and the Burlington Diocese itself. Sorrell says callers have offered detailed information about alleged sexual abuse.

Sorrell says the church has been cooperative. He says the diocese has assured him it’s not aware of any recent abuse incidents:

(Sorrell) "We have asked for much more information than that without regard to a time frame, but as it relates to any priest or employee of the diocese, present or past, as long as they’re still alive, any allegations about sexual improprieties or sexual conduct with anyone under the age of 18."

(Zind) Sorrell says he’ll meet Thursday with the lawyer for the diocese. He says he expects the diocese to turn over any information it has including names of priests, dates of incidents and the names of victims.

Sorrell says among those who have contacted his office are people who have already settled sexual misconduct cases with the church. He says they’re worried they might be sued if they give him information, because it would break the confidentiality agreements that were part of the settlements. He wants the diocese to waive the agreements:

(Sorrell) "Some of them have apparently been involved in litigation or threatened litigation against the diocese and have signed confidentiality agreements that they won’t talk about these matters and they’re concerned that they could get into trouble by talking to us. We’re hoping very much that the diocese will say that those confidentiality agreements will not have to be adhered to."

(Zind) Vermont law does not require the church to turn over information on sexual abuse by priests. Sorrell says the statute of limitations makes it difficult to prosecute abuse incidents that took place more than twenty years ago, unless the crime involved a child under the age of ten.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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