Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How Vermont’s Catholic Church hid decades of child abuse


BURLINGTON — Before Vermont Catholic Bishop Christopher Coyne invited questions at a recent press conference pledging cooperation with a current local and state investigation of past church-related misconduct, he turned to reporters with his own inquiry.
“Want me to mike up?” he asked. “Any problem with the sound?”
Longtime observers of the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington couldn’t believe what they were hearing. They remember the church’s muzzling response regarding the late priest Michael Madden, who was charged with sexual improprieties during a 20-year career at five parishes and the local St. Joseph’s Orphanage — the latter the subject of a recent BuzzFeed story that sparked the new probe.
In the 1980s, a county state’s attorney tried to subpoena then-Bishop John Marshall, who served from 1972 to 1992, to testify in court. The diocese, citing the Bible and the U.S. Constitution, argued its leader was immune from such calls.
“In order for the church, its priests and bishops … to enjoy the constitutional right to freely exercise their ecclesiastical or religious functions,” one of its lawyers argued, “it is essential that they have independence from state authority.”
A judge went on to rule the diocese had to provide internal information. But the church didn’t comply with that demand either, prompting the state to drop multiple sexual assault charges against Madden in return for a no-contest plea on a single count of lewd and lascivious conduct.
Bishop John Marshall
Bishop John Marshall served from 1972 to 1992. Provided photo
The priest, spared prison with a deferred sentence, opted out of a state Corrections Department sex offender treatment program for a church-run alternative. There he told a therapist he had molested dozens of teenage boys — only to go on to violate his probation six times and, only because of that, serve two years in jail.
Vermont’s Catholic Church is making headlines this fall by agreeing to work with law enforcement, releasing past child abuse victims from nondisclosure agreements and forming a lay committee to review clergy misconduct files and publicly release the names of abusers — news in part because the state’s largest religious denomination has a decades-long history of defying court orders and outside review... continue article here

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