As more information surfaces around clergy abuse in the United States, state lawmakers are taking action to prevent further abuse. Vermont lawmakers recently passed legislation to amend the legal deadline to file claims of childhood sex abuse.
On May 28, 2019, Vermont Governor Scott signed bill H.330 into law. The bill went into effect on July 1, 2019. The new law extends the legal rights of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in several ways:
- H.330 eliminated the statute of limitations to file a civil claim of childhood sexual abuse.
- H.330 expanded the definition of “childhood sexual abuse” to include felony sexual exploitation of a minor.
- If evidence shows that an entity (institution, organization or company) was grossly negligent in a case of child sexual abuse, H.330 allows the entity to be sued for damages. For a survivor of clergy abuse, this provision allows the victim to sue the diocese or church if either entity covered up the abuse.
- All measures in bill H.330 are applied retroactively to abuse that occurred before July 1, 2019.
On May 30, 2019, Vermont Governor Philip Scott signed bill H.511 into law. The bill went into effect immediately. The new law amended the legal deadline to press criminal charges for several different crimes including the sexual exploitation of a minor.
Defining “Sexual Exploitation of a Minor” in Vermont
Sexual exploitation of a minor occurs when a sexual act is committed with a minor and the following criteria are true:
- The actor is 48 months older than the minor.
- The actor is in a position of “power, authority, or supervision over the minor.”
Source: The Vermont Statutes Online
Vermont Priest Abuse Lawsuits
All across the country, Catholic Dioceses are facing a large number of priest abuse lawsuits. As more states expand their statutes of limitations, the number of sexual abuse lawsuits against organizations like the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts of America is expected to rise.
Like many other dioceses in the United States, the Diocese of Burlington released a list of priests facing credible allegations of abuse. Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Burlington Diocese assembled a committee to sort through decades of church records and allegation reports. In August 2019, Bishop Coyne announced the release of a list documenting 40 priests accused of abuse in Vermont. The publication of this list is expected to prompt more lawsuits in the state.
The Diocese of Burlington has faced numerous lawsuits throughout the years. The diocese originally handled the cases individually, but after a series of significant legal losses, the diocese has aimed to settle more of the abuse cases.
Many of the cases filed against the Diocese Burlington come from victims of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage in Burlington, Vermont.
Vermont Catholic Orphanage Abuse
In 2018, a BuzzFeed investigative news article exposed decades of child abuse at St. Joseph Catholic Orphanage. Although the orphanage building was owned by the Diocese of Burlington, the facility was run by the Sisters of Providence — a Montreal-based order of nuns. The orphanage was open for 120 years.
The expose documented horrifying stories of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse waged against children at the orphanage over several decades. Many of the perpetrators were nuns, priests or other staff who worked at the facility.
In the early 1990s, the Burlington Diocese offered $5,000 to those abused at the orphanage. In exchange for the money, victims had to waive their legal rights to file a lawsuit against the diocese. More than 100 former residents accepted the money.
Despite the money offered, many former residents chose to pursue legal action instead. Many lawsuits named the Burlington Diocese, the Sisters of Providence and the Vermont Catholic Charities as defendants. In the late 1990s, several plaintiffs asked the court to consolidate their lawsuits. Consolidating the cases would allow plaintiffs’ testimonies to support one another, potentially making their testimonies more credible.
The plaintiffs were denied this request. Many of the plaintiffs withdrew their claims after the request was denied rather than face the church alone. Several cases were also dismissed due to the previous state legal deadlines pertaining to civil cases.
After the BuzzFeed article was published, the Vermont Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into the allegations. As of August 2019, the investigation is still open.
If you or someone you know has any information about crimes at St. Joseph’s Orphanage, call the Burlington City Police Department’s phone line at (802) 658-2704 or complete this online form to report any relevant information to the investigation.
If you or someone you know was abused at St. Joseph’s Orphanage and are considering legal action, contact our legal team today. We can help you understand your legal rights and options.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Priest Sexual Abuse in Vermont?
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. Legal deadlines are determined at the state level and therefore vary from state to state. Additionally, legal deadlines vary based on the crime itself.
In Vermont, there are different statutes for victims filing civil claims versus pressing criminal charges against an abuser.
With the passing of bill H.330, a survivor of child sexual abuse has no time limit to file a civil lawsuit against his or her abuser in the state of Vermont.
You May Have Legal Rights
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There is no criminal statute of limitations for the following sexual crimes against a minor in the state of Vermont:
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Sexual exploitation of a minor
According to bill H.511, criminal charges for the following crimes against a minor must be brought to court within 40 years after the crime occurred:
- Lewd and lascivious conduct alleged to have been committed against a child under 18 years of age
- Lewd or lascivious conduct with a child
Vermont Dioceses Settlements
The Diocese of Burlington has paid out millions of dollars in settlements for priest sex abuse allegations. The exact figure is unknown as several settlement figures were never disclosed. However, there have been some significant settlements announced publicly.
- In 2006, the Burlington Diocese settled a lawsuit with a victim of a former priest in the diocese. The agreed settlement paid the plaintiff $965,000.
- In 2010, a group of 26 altar boys filed lawsuits against the Diocese of Burlington over abuse allegations. The legal settlements cost the diocese roughly $18 million. Several similar lawsuits were filed after the verdict. By 2013, the diocese paid more than $30 million to settle 40 total allegations made by former altar boys. In order to pay the settlements, the diocese sold multiple land and property assets.
List of Priests Accused of Abuse in Vermont
The following list contains the names of clergy members and Vermont priests accused of abuse. The list does not include staff members, volunteers or members of the Burlington Diocese facing similar accusations. If you believe the clergy member you are looking for committed crimes of sexual abuse in a different state, use our nationwide, searchable database of accused priests.
If you do not see the name of the Vermont priest you are looking for, it does not mean your claim is ineligible. This list grows as additional abusers are identified.
If you or a loved one was abused by a clergy member in Vermont, contact us today about your legal rights. Whether or not the abuser is on the list, we want to hear from you. We can help you get justice and win financial compensation.
Survivors May Be Eligible For Compensation
Learn About Filing a Lawsuit in Vermont
There Are 43 Accused Clergy Members From The Diocese Of Burlington, VT:
- Baffa, Robert J.
- Beauregard, James E.
- Bessette, Conrad
- Bresnehan, Paul M.
- Bruneau, Donald A.
- Campbell, James J.
- Claire, (unknown)
- Devoy, Robert E.
- Doe, Jane
- Dunn, James
- Dussault, Joseph H.
- Eastman, John F.
- Foley, James F.
- Foster, Edward C.
- Gallagher, William P.
- Gelineau, Edward J.
- Gelineau (BP), Louis E.
- Guichard, John A.
- Kenney, John B. (Jack)
- Madden, Michael K.
- McShane, James J.
- Mead, Brian E.
- Milanese, John
- Miller, Walter D.
- Mooney, Joseph Maxime
- Murtagh, George O.
- Nichols, Stephen J.
- Paquette, Jr., Edward O.
- Paulin, George A.
- Provost, Raymond C.
- Roberts, Daniel F.
- Roberts, Daniel F.
- Ronald A., Soutiere
- Rouelle, Forrest W.
- Savary, Emile W.
- Soutiere, Ronald A.
- Stankiewicz, John A.
- Thompson, Richard E.
- Towne, Charles A.
- Walsh, Raymond D.
- Ward, Donal D.
- Willis, Alfred
- Wysolmerski, Benjamin D.
Vermont Clergy Abuse Victim Resources
Victims of priest abuse in Vermont do not have to heal from the trauma alone. The state of Vermont has many helpful resources for survivors of sexual assault.
The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (Vermont Network) works to end domestic and sexual violence in the state of Vermont.
To speak to someone about your experience of sexual assault or sexual violence, you can call the Vermont Network’s 24-hour statewide hotline at 800-489-7273.
The Vermont Network is made up of 15 independent, non-profit organizations that work to provide resources to survivors of violence in Vermont. The table below lists victim programs within the Vermont Network by county:
Vermont Sexual Violence Programs by County
|County||Facility Name||Phone Number(s)|
|Bennington||Project Against Violent Encounters (PAVE)||Hotline: 802-442-2111
|Caledonia||The Advocacy Program Umbrella||Hotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)
*AWARE serves the towns of Hardwick, Stannard, and Walden in Caledonia County.
|Essex||The Advocacy Program Umbrella||Hotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)
|Franklin||Voices Against Violence||Hotline: 802-524-6575|
|Grand Isle||Voices Against Violence||Hotline: 802-524-6575|
|Lamoille||Clarina Howard Nichols Center||Hotline: 802-888-5256
|Orange||Safeline||Hotline: 1-800-NEW-SAFE (639-7233)|
|Orange||WISE||Hotline: 866-348-WISE (9473)
|Orleans||The Advocacy Program Umbrella||Hotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)
*AWARE serves the towns of Craftsbury and Greensboro in Orleans County.
|Rutland||NewStory Center||Hotline: 802-775-3232
|Washington||Sexual Assault Crisis Team (SACT)||Hotline: 802-479-5577
*AWARE serves the towns of Cabot and Woodbury in Washington County.
|Windham||Women’s Freedom Center||Hotline: 802-254-6954
|Windsor||Women’s Freedom Center||Hotline: 802-885-2050 Office: 802-885-2368|
|Windsor||WISE||Hotline: 866-348-WISE (9473)
|Source:||The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence|
The Vermont Department of Health
The Vermont Department of Health supports efforts to prevent sexual and domestic violence. Many of the programs supported by the Vermont Department of Health offer resources to survivors. Learn more about the department’s initiatives and the programs it supports here.
Vermont Priest Abuse FAQs
How Do I Report Sexual Abuse by a Priest in Vermont?
If you or someone you know is in danger, call 911 immediately.
There are several hotlines you can report sexual abuse to in the state of Vermont:
To report any sexual abuse or sexual assault:
Contact your local law enforcement agency to report a case of sexual assault. You can also reach out to the Vermont Network by calling the 24-hour hotline 800-489-7273.
To report the sexual abuse of a minor:
You can either report the abuse to local law enforcement or contact the Vermont Department for Children and Families by calling the hotline at 1-800-649-5285.
To report sexual abuse or victimization to the Diocese of Burlington:
Call either number below to report a case of sexual abuse to the diocese.
John Pfeifer | Manager of Safe Environment Programs
Phone: 802-658-6110 ext. 1219
Email Address: [email protected]
Sheila Conroy, LCMHC | Victim Assistance Coordinator
To make an anonymous report to the diocese, you can reach the Diocese of Burlington’s Victim Assistance voice mailbox at 866-485-2488.
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Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo
Ron Meneo is the managing partner of The Meneo Law Group. With more than 40 years of experience, he represents clients across the country on a variety of complex legal matters, including personal injury due to institutional sexual abuse, unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and other practice areas. He is a recipient of Martindale-Hubbell’s prestigious AV® Preeminent Rating. He has also served as an editor and contributor for several legal journals.
Associated Press. (2010, May 14). Vermont: Settlement in Priest Abuse Cases. The New York Times.
Flynn, A.G. (2019, August 23). Vermont diocese list of credibly accused clergy shows 2 with Western Mass. ties; allegations against both were already public. MassLive.com.
General Assembly Bill H.330 (Vermont 2019).
General Assembly Bill H.511 (Vermont 2019).
Kenneally, C. (2018, August 27). We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage. BuzzFeed News.
O’Connor, K. (2018, September 18). Vermont Catholic Church investigation faces challenges. VTDigger.org.
O’Connor, K. (2018, December 11). Vermont Catholic Church faces new priest misconduct lawsuit. VTDigger.org.
O’Connor, K. (2019, August 22). Church report accuses 40 Vermont priests of child sex abuse. VTDigger.org.
Office of the Vermont Attorney General. (2019, August 22). Statement from the Attorney General’s Office Regarding the Lay Committee’s Report on Priest Sex Abuse Cases.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. (N.D.) Independent Report on Priest Sex Abuse Cases for the Diocese of Burlington, VT. (1950 to 2019) [PDF].
Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. (2017, November 3). Reporting Abuse.
Vermont Department of Health. (2019, October 15). Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
Vermont General Assembly. (N.D.) The Vermont Statutes Online.
Vermont Network. (N.D.) Find Help Nearby. Retrieved February 20, 2020.
(2010, February 4). Diocese of Burlington to sell headquarters for sex abuse settlements. Catholic News Agency.