According to the lawsuit, Silleti was abused by the former priest Leo Courcy. The lawsuit further accuses the Diocese of Burlington of making “a purposeful effort to conceal the horrific misdeeds of Diocesan priests.”
Abused by a Priest in Vermont?
You May Have Rights to Legal Compensation
Survivor Files Latest Lawsuit Against Burlington Diocese
On May 23, 2021, Silletti filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Burlington for child sex abuse perpetrated by Leo Courcy. According to Silletti, the abuse began in 1978 when he was five or six years old. The former priest became a friend of the Silletti family following a Catholic marriage retreat. Courcy visited the family on multiple occasions, giving him access to abuse Silletti numerous times.
Silletti’s lawsuit also accuses the Diocese of Burlington of concealing the abuse and allowing Courcy to remain in active ministry. In doing so, the diocese failed to prevent Courcy from victimizing other children.
Burlington Diocese Conceals Allegations Against Courcy
In the late 1960s, Courcy was treated for psychosis and psychosexual issues. Despite being aware of his disorders, the Catholic Church continued to employ him at multiple parishes across the country. In addition to Vermont, Courcy served as a priest in New Mexico, Texas and parishes in Canada. Child sexual abuse survivors in New Mexico have filed similar lawsuits against him.
Diocesan officials frequently move abusive priests to new positions in other parishes, dioceses or states. It is a practice known as “priest shuffling,” and it is one way officials attempted to cover up abuse allegations. By moving accused priests, church officials avoided inquiries from parishioners and local law enforcement agencies.
This practice protected the reputation of the Catholic Church, but it also protected predators. For some predators, such as Leo Courcy, priest shuffling gave them access to new victims and opportunities for further abuse.
“His history of short assignments, frequent transfers between dioceses, and leaves of absence are certainly major red flags that we will be investigating during the course of this lawsuit … I don’t rule out that Courcy left a trail of many, many hurting kids across the United States and Canada.”
In August 2019, the Diocese of Burlington released a report naming 40 Vermont priests facing credible allegations of child sex abuse. The abuse allegations in the report span 70 years. Leo Courcy was one of the priests listed by the diocese. Additionally, the report found the Diocese of Burlington took no action against any of the accused priests.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI laicized Courcy, removing him from active ministry.
When a priest, deacon or bishop is laicized, he is no longer considered a member of the clergy. Laicization is also commonly known as “defrocking.”
History Of Abuse In The Burlington Diocese
Throughout the years, the Diocese of Burlington has reached multiple settlements with priest abuse survivors. A 2010 lawsuit filed by 26 former altar boys led to an $18 million settlement. The verdict prompted more survivors to file lawsuits alleging child sex abuse. By 2013, the diocese had paid more than $30 million to survivors. This was in addition to several undisclosed settlements.
Silletti is hoping to hold the Diocese of Burlington responsible for all of Courcy’s crimes. If successful, it may help survivors across the country find justice.
Elletson, G. (2021, May 23). Burlington’s Roman Catholic Diocese is served with another sexual abuse lawsuit. VTDigger.
O’Conner, K. (2019, August 22). Church report accuses 40 Vermont priests of child sex abuse. VTDigger.