April 28, 2006

A scandal deferred

Rutland Herald

April 28, 2006

An extraordinary series of letters has come to light in the sexual abuse case against a former priest, revealing the failure of the Catholic clergy in Vermont to face squarely the crimes committed and the damage inflicted by one of their number.

The Rev. Edward Paquette served as a priest in Rutland, Montpelier, and Burlington after serving in Massachusetts and Indiana during the 1960s and 1970s. In each place he was found to have sexually abused boys, and the church responded by sending him to treatment programs and providing him with the pastoral counseling it believed would help him keep his abusive behavior under control. In the end Bishop John Marshall of the diocese of Burlington was forced to dismiss him.

The Paquette story mirrors many of the abuse cases that have come to light in recent years, most famously in the Boston area. It involves a priest given to criminal exploitation of children and a church shifting him from church to church in the hope of averting scandal.

Church leaders were far from oblivious to the damage that Paquette was doing. In a letter to Christ the King Church in Burlington, written in 1978, Marshall wrote: "As I am sure that you understand the tension that can sometimes develop between the concern that we should have for one of God's chosen priests and the equally great concern that we should have for the spiritual welfare of His people can be great indeed and not easily resolved."

Posted by kshaw at April 28, 2006 03:36 AM