‘I think the wound of this is generational’: Catholic Diocese report lists 40 Vermont priests accused of child sexual abuse

MARIA MERCIECA and LEE KAHRS 

After a 10-month investigation, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington released a report on Aug. 22 detailing the names and bios of 40 priests who have served in Vermont and were credibly accused of sexual abuse.

At least 26 of the priests on the list are deceased, plus two more presumed dead. None of the others are currently in ministry.

The list, which dates back to 1950, was compiled by a lay committee made up of seven volunteers, both men and women, who are independent of the diocese. The committee looked at three criteria to determine credibility: whether the allegation was natural, plausible and probable; if it was corroborated by other evidence; or if the accused admitted to the abuse. Meeting just one of these three requirements meant making the list of names.

At a press conference at the diocese in South Burlington held just an hour after the list was released, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne read a statement expressing his deep sorrow over the crimes and his commitment to preventing future abuse.

“These shameful, sinful and criminal acts have been our family secret for generations,” Coyne said. “I have listened to the stories of victims of clergy sexual abuse and will continue to do so. They need to hear over and over again that we believe them. They also need to know that we are doing everything we humanly can to make sure this does not happen again.”

Hitting home in Shelburne 

Of the 40 names on the list, three spent time serving in some capacity in Shelburne.

Robert J. Baffa, who is described in the report as having done “special work with ex-offenders and alienated youth” at the Crossroads Halfway House, The 1690 Group Home, and Allenbrook Home for Boys, 1970-82; Walter D. Miller, who worked at the Burlington Tribunal Office with residence at St. Catherine of Siena Church, 1974-76; and George O. Murtagh, who served as the temporary administrator at St. Catherine, May-August 1963.

All three have died. Baffa’s priestly faculties were withdrawn in June 2002 by Bishop Kenneth Angell and Baffa retired the same month. He died in 2013.

Miller retired from the priesthood in December 2004.His public priestly faculties were revoked in January 2005 by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell. Miller died in January 2014.

Murtagh resigned as Pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Bristol in October 1987 and transferred to Hartford, Conn., Institute of Living and Cathedral of St. Joseph. He retired in Novemeber 1991. His public priestly faculties were revoked in December 1992 by Bishop Kenneth A. Angell. Murtagh died in December 2011.

Reached for comment the day after the Bishop’s press conference, St. Catherine of Siena’s Monsignor Michael DeForge was clear and to the point.

“I’m just heartbroken,” he said. “Heartbroken for the victims who have carried this pain inside them for so long.”

The real work and the scope

Diocese Executive Director of Development and Communication Ellen Kane said in a phone interview Friday that there is an understanding that now the real work begins for the diocese, the victims and their families.

“Releasing these names is the first step to the healing process,” she said. “This isn’t over. This is just the beginning.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Coyne noted that the list will pull mixed reactions from victims, some feeling relief over seeing the names of their perpetrators finally come to light and others feeling a “fresh wound” as they relive their trauma. For the “silent survivors” who may have not yet come forward, the bishop reminded them: “I believe you.”

What is notable about the list is not only the sheer number of priests named, but that, particularly in a small state like Vermont, the mobile nature of the priesthood and the dwindling number of priests in general led to clergy serving in multiple towns all over the state. The six priests associated with St. Jude and Our Lady of Mount Carmel also spent time ministering in Bellows Falls, Burlington, Middletown Springs, Brattleboro, Brandon, Bridport, Essex Junction, Fair Haven, Forestdale, Island Pond, Johnson, Lyndonville, Marshfield, Newport, St. Albans, Pittsford, Readsboro, Rutland, Shelburne, South Burlington, St. Johnsbury, St. Albans, Vergennes, Underhill Center, West Rutland, Windsor and Winooski over the course of their careers.

Although Coyne said he hopes there are not many more victims who haven’t yet come forward, he said the diocese expects new allegations to turn up as media outlets continue to cover the story. As a result, the lay committee will stay in place with some of the present members continuing in their roles. Coyne said his main goal is to keep current and future committee members at least one level removed from clergy and staff, so that he has no control over the process.

“I think the wound of this is generational,” Coyne said. “I think it’s going to haunt us for decades still to come. All we can continue to do as a church is do the right thing for the right reasons, one person at a time.”

To read the full committee report, go to www.vermontcatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ReportPriestSexAbuseCasesRCDB.pdf

For the full text of Bishop Coyne’s statement, go to: www.vermontcatholic.org/vermont/the-sins-of-the-past


Living priests credibly accused of abusing children in Vermont

(Name, date of birth)

Conrad A. Bessette, Dec. 29, 1942

Leo J. Courcy Jr., July 10, 1953

John B. “Jack” Kenney, Dec. 10, 1927

Dennis J. LaRoche, March 10, 1946

Charles G. Many, March 12, 1947

James J. McShane Jr., Nov. 11, 1940

Brian E. Mead, June 15, 1942

Stephen J. Nichols, Jan. 30, 1960

Edward O. Paquette, Dec. 2, 1928

George A. Paulin, July 22, 1943

Ronald A. Soutiere, June 5, 1937

Alfred Willis, July 17, 1944

Deceased priests credibly accused of abusing children in Vermont

(Name, date of birth, date of death)

Robert J. Baffa, March 24, 1937 – March 23, 2013

Donald A. Bean, Dec. 1, 1934 – Nov. 29, 2005

James E. Beauregard, May 5, 1941 – July 28, 2015

Paul M. Bresnahan, July 11, 1928 – July 23, 2003

Donald A. Bruneau, Jan. 2, 1929 – June 2, 1994

James J. Campbell, July 26, 1913 – presumed dead

Robert E. Devoy, Aug. 10, 1876 – March 4, 1955

Joseph H. Dussault, March 22, 1908 – Dec. 11, 1987

John F. Eastman, Dec. 20, 1914 – presumed dead

James F. Foley, June 12, 1919 – Nov. 27, 2002

Edward C. Foster, Feb. 12, 1925 – April 14, 2000

William P. Gallagher, June 9, 1939 – Oct. 13, 2003

Edward J. Gelineau, April 11, 1915 – June 18, 2010

John A. Guischard, Feb. 28, 1916 – May 15, 2007

Michael K. Madden, Aug. 31, 1942 – Sept. 10, 2000

Walter D. Miller, Oct. 11, 1934 – Jan. 2, 2014

Joseph Maxime Mooney, July 21, 1886 – Dec. 31, 1965

George O. Murtagh, July 8, 1926 – Dec. 7, 2011

Raymond C. Provost, July 13, 1908 – Aug. 13, 1998

Daniel F. Roberts, July 19, 1909 – Dec. 12, 1981

Forrest W. Rouelle, Dec. 5, 1927 – March 25, 1998

Emile W. Savary, Jan. 16, 1917 – June 8, 1966

Richard E. Thompson, Feb. 14, 1941 – Sept. 23, 2006

Charles A. Towne, Dec. 4, 1903 – Feb. 15, 1982

Raymond D. Walsh, July 11, 1927 – June 24, 2019

Donal D. Ward, Feb. 16, 1933 – Feb. 20, 2018

Benjamin D. Wysolmerski, Aug. 4, 1926 – Oct. 11, 1994

Priests with connections to Vermont credibly accused of abusing children in other jurisdictions

(Name, date of birth)

Mark L. Quillen, also known as Andrew Quillen, May 10, 1951

(Courtesy of VTDigger)

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