Vermont Statute of Limitations at Issue in Priest Abuse Case

May 12, 2008

A Vermont judge said a jury in Burlington can consider awarding punitive and compensatory damages to a former altar boy suing the state’s Roman Catholic diocese over sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a priest.

Although the diocese had not yet presented its case, Judge Matthew Katz said last week that evidence showed that Rev. Edward Paquette was a known child sexual abuser before he was hired by the Diocese and was not properly supervised.

“Plaintiff here has presented evidence that this errant priest had an almost 10-year history of molesting young boys, in his role as priest,” Katz wrote in his order. “This diocese had notice of that problem.”

A 40-year-old man from Lakewood, Colo., who served as an altar boy at Christ the King Church in Burlington in the 1970s, filed suit in 2005 alleging negligent supervision of Paquette by the Diocese.

The Associated Press does not identify sexual abuse victims without their consent.

The diocese doesn’t dispute the abuse allegations in the Colorado man’s case, but contends that the suit was filed too late under Vermont’s statute of limitations.

On Friday, a nun who served as principal of St. Michael’s School in Montpelier testified that she saw Paquette grope a boy at the school in mid-1970s.

“I saw a student going up the stairs, and I saw Father Paquette behind him,” Sister Mary Crosby said. “He put his hand up under his legs.”

Paquette was transferred a short time later to Christ to the King Church in Burlington, where her nephew was an altar boy, she said. She said she warned her brother and sister-in-law about Paquette.

“I was concerned about what I had seen,” Crosby said. “I had an uneasy feeling.”

The diocese will present its case on Monday, with closing arguments expected in the afternoon.


Information from: The Burlington Free Press,

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