May 15, 2006

Church aims to shield assets from lawsuits

Rutland Herald

May 15, 2006

By KEVIN O'CONNOR Herald Staff

Vermont's Catholic Church, fearing the potential costs of 19 priest misconduct lawsuits against it, hopes to shield its 130 local parishes by placing each in a charitable trust.

"In such litigious times, it would be a gross act of mismanagement if I did not do everything possible to protect our parishes and the interests of the faithful from unbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault," Bishop Salvatore Matano has written in a letter to be shared this month with the state's 118,000 Catholics.

Matano, however, doesn't explain how the diocese will pay off its debt, which totaled $127,947 at the start of its fiscal year July 1 and ballooned tenfold when the church took out a loan last month to cover a record $965,000 settlement in the first priest misconduct lawsuit against it.

And the lawyer representing all 19 men accusing priests of child sexual abuse says he'll fight the charitable trust move in court, saying "what the diocese is doing is committing fraud."

Posted by kshaw at May 15, 2006 07:21 AM