Two investigated priests will not be prosecuted

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(Host) The lawyer for one of the priests investigated by the Attorney General’s Office says he expects his client will return to his parish in the near future. Authorities have finished investigating two priests in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against members of the Catholic clergy in Vermont.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Last month when he announced the probes had been completed, Attorney General William Sorrell said the two priests would not be prosecuted. Sorrell said that doesn’t mean they’re exonerated. He said his office simply didn’t have enough evidence to pursue the cases.

Neither the attorney general nor the diocese has named the two priests, but the lawyer for the Reverend John Milanese of Randolph confirms that his client is one of them. Rutland attorney Joseph O’Rourke says Sorrell’s comments have unfairly cast a shadow of suspicion over his client.

(O’Rourke) “What he should have said is, we have no credible evidence to bring any charges against Father Milanese.”

(Zind) O’Rourke says the Attorney General’s Office wasn’t the only state agency to look into the allegations against his client.

(O’Rourke) “The social welfare department did an investigation and I have a letter from them saying that they found no cause of any sort against Father Milanese.”

(Zind) O’Rourke says Milanese answered all the investigator’s questions. He says his client declined to take a state administered lie detector test because authorities refused to also test the priest’s accuser. The Attorney General’s Office says it doesn’t normally give lie detector tests to alleged victims.

O’Rourke says the investigations prove the allegations against Milanese were groundless. He says he expects the priest will be returned to duty once the Catholic Diocese of Burlington has reviewed the attorney general’s findings.

The Reverend Donal Ward of Vergennes has confirmed that he was the other priest whose review has been completed by the attorney general. In a letter to parishioners, Ward acknowledged a long affair with a young man. Ward said the relationship didn’t turn sexual until the individual reached the age of majority. He told parishioners he would retire.

The attorney general is still reviewing sexual abuse allegations against roughly three dozen current and former priests.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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