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Clergy Abuse in Vermont

In August 2019, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington released a report documenting information about 40 Vermont priests accused of sexual abuse. The Burlington Diocese, state lawmakers and victim advocates are working to prevent further clergy abuse in the state of Vermont.

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Vermont Sexual Assault Legislation

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.

Bill H.330 Repeals Civil Statute of Limitations

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.

Bill H.511 Extends Criminal Statute of Limitations

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 lawsuits over allegations of abuse. 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.

Civil Lawsuits

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.

Criminal Charges

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
What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Case and Civil Lawsuit?

If the abuser (defendant) is found guilty in a criminal case, he or she may face probation or time in prison. The victim (plaintiff) would only receive money if the court requires the defendant to pay restitution to the plaintiff.

If the abuser (defendant) is found liable in a civil case, he or she must pay a monetary award to the victim (plaintiff). The amount of the award is determined by the jury. The award covers any damages caused by the abuse.

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.

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.

Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

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

CountyFacility NamePhone Number(s)
AddisonWomenSafeHotline: 802-388-4205
BenningtonProject Against Violent Encounters (PAVE)Hotline: 802-442-2111
Office: 802-442-2370
CaledoniaThe Advocacy Program UmbrellaHotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)

Office: -802-748-1992
CaledoniaAWARE
*AWARE serves the towns of Hardwick, Stannard, and Walden in Caledonia County.
Hotline: 802-472-6463
ChittendenHope Works
(Formerly WRCC)
Hotline: 802-863-1236
EssexThe Advocacy Program UmbrellaHotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)

Office: -802-748-1992
FranklinVoices Against ViolenceHotline: 802-524-6575
Grand IsleVoices Against ViolenceHotline: 802-524-6575
LamoilleClarina Howard Nichols CenterHotline: 802-888-5256
Office: 802-888-2584
OrangeSafelineHotline: 1-800-NEW-SAFE (639-7233)
OrangeWISEHotline: 866-348-WISE (9473)
Office: 603-448-5922
OrleansThe Advocacy Program UmbrellaHotline: 802-748-8645 (St. Johnsbury)
Hotline: 802-334-0148 (Newport)

Office: 802-748-1992
OrleansAWARE
*AWARE serves the towns of Craftsbury and Greensboro in Orleans County.
Hotline: 802-472-6463
RutlandNewStory CenterHotline: 802-775-3232
Office: 802-775-6788
WashingtonCircleHotline: 1-877-543-9498
WashingtonSexual Assault Crisis Team (SACT)Hotline: 802-479-5577
Office: 802-476-1388
WashingtonAWARE
*AWARE serves the towns of Cabot and Woodbury in Washington County.
Hotline: 802-472-6463
WindhamWomen’s Freedom CenterHotline: 802-254-6954
Office: 802-257-7364
WindsorWomen’s Freedom CenterHotline: 802-885-2050 Office: 802-885-2368
WindsorWISEHotline: 866-348-WISE (9473)
Office: 603-448-5922
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
Phone: 802-855-3016

To make an anonymous report to the diocese, you can reach the Diocese of Burlington’s Victim Assistance voice mailbox at 866-485-2488.

For more information about reporting sexual abuse, visit our resource page>

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