May 04, 2006

Church weighs options as lawsuit count rises

Rutland Herald

May 3, 2006

By Kevin O'Connor Rutland Herald

Vermont's Catholic Church, in debt more than $1 million, is studying its financial options upon learning the number of priest misconduct lawsuits it faces has risen to 19.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, although property-rich with 130 parishes statewide, began its current fiscal year with a $127,947 spending deficit, records show. Then last month, the church took out a loan to pay a state-record $965,000 settlement in the first of a string of child sexual abuse lawsuits against its clergy.

Diocesan leaders, discussing their financial options behind closed doors, may release a statement as soon as today, although "the filing of these new cases has caused some concerns with our attorneys," diocesan spokeswoman Gloria Gibson said Tuesday.

The diocese sparked headlines April 19 when it settled the first of what was then 17 priest misconduct lawsuits against it. As part of the $965,000 agreement almost seven times the once-record $150,000 the church paid in 2004 to squash one of four past cases the diocese admitted it knew the priest in question had a history of assaulting boys.

Posted by kshaw at May 4, 2006 08:24 AM