Vermont Church Settles Abuse Lawsuit

April 21, 2006

A lawsuit filed by a former altar boy who claimed he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest in the 1970s has been settled for $965,000 as the case was due to go to trial.

Michael Gay, 38, of South Burlington had claimed that Father Edward Paquette sexually abused him as an altar boy from age 10 to 12 at Christ the King Catholic Church in Burlington in 1977 and 1978.

“The Diocese of Burlington expressed deep sympathy and regret for this very sad situation and for all whose lives have been affected by (it) and who have suffered through this terrible ordeal,” the diocese said in a statement

News reports said it was the largest settlement in a priest-abuse case in state history.

The diocese said it would borrow the money to pay the settlement. No existing programs or charities would be affected by the settlement.

As part of the settlement, the church acknowledged it failed to take action against Paquette after being warned about his actions.

The diocese said church officials at the time acted in good faith, but their decisions later turned out to be wrong.

“The period in which these incidents took place was a very different time,” the statement said. The church then believed priests who molested children could be treated and returned to their jobs as “cured,” the church said.

“Sadly, the decisions made later proved inadequate and the expected rehabilitation ended in failure, a failure deeply regretted,” the statement said.

Paquette, who is in his late 70s, was expelled from the priesthood. He is living in Massachusetts.

The diocese is still facing 17 sexual abuse lawsuits, 11 of them involving Paquette.

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