Catholic Church Sexual Abuse in Vermont
Recent changes in Vermont law have made it possible for child sex abuse victims to file a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church. Vermont has gone from having very restrictive time limits to giving victims virtually an unlimited right to file a civil lawsuit.
This helps people who have experienced frightening abuse as a child. Vermont is home to one of the more shocking instances of Catholic Church abuse, and victims now have the ability to seek justice for it. Now, as sexual abuse survivors, they may be eligible for substantial financial compensation.
Vermont Abuse Lawsuit Attorneys
Our law firm can help you take legal action against the Church as a victim of sexual misconduct. In the past, the Vermont Church has resisted and fought those who were exploited by Catholic priests as they sought to exercise their legal rights to damages.
Our attorneys will work with you to help hold the Church accountable for the sexual assault that its priests and clergy inflicted on you. Call us today for your free legal consultation and to learn more about how you can file a court action against the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church in Vermont
In Vermont, the territory of the Diocese of Burlington covers the entire state. The number of Catholics in the state has been dropping as it has across the entire United States. As of 2015, there were 117,000 Catholics in Vermont spread out across 73 parishes in locations such as South Burlington, Rutland, and Barre. This is down almost a third from peak membership in the Vermont Church.
As a result of declining membership and lawsuits, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has sold properties and reduced some of its footprint in the state.
A History of Sexual Exploitation in Vermont
In order to understand how pervasive sexual misconduct has been in the Burlington Diocese, one needs to take a look at the statistics. In 2019, church officials released a list of priests in the state who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse. There were 40 names on the list of Roman Catholic priests. Since 1950, there have been 419 priests assigned to the Diocese of Burlington.
This means that one in every ten clergy members serving in the diocese over the past 70 years has been credibly accused of sex abuse. This is a staggering number and shows how deep the problems have run in the Catholic Church. In compiling the list, the Church looked at the files of roughly 50 priests who were connected with allegations of sexual abuse.
Many of the abuse claims have resulted from a pattern of horrific conduct at the St. Joseph’s orphanage run by the diocese. For decades, the abuse of young people was unspeakable and for a long time, it was both physical and sexual. Children at the St. Joseph’s orphanage were beaten, raped, burned and thrown into water to possibly drown. The Catholic Church actually tried to defend itself against these horrific claims of abuse.
Even the former Bishop of Providence has been accused on abuse in connection with his time at the orphanage. The investigation into the orphanage is still happening today. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has formed a task force to investigate the criminal behavior at the orphanage on behalf of law enforcement. The Vermont attorney general’s office continues to work on the matter to consider possible criminal charges against the Catholic priests who are still alive.
Regardless of the seemingly compelling evidence that has emerged, the Vermont diocese responded as it usually does, with coverup of credible allegations of church sex abuse.
The Vermont Church Hides Assets to Keep from Paying in Civil Suits
In filing a lawsuit against the Vermont church, one will need to act relatively quickly. There is at least some question of how much the diocese will have on hand to pay settlements of sexual abuse claims.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington does not have insurance, and it claims to be a non-profit notwithstanding the hundreds of millions of dollars that it had. The Diocese also stashed away most of its assets into trusts to keep sexual abuse victims from being able to access them with court orders. The Vermont church moved nearly half a billion into trusts to avoid having to pay the victims that its priests harmed.
However, victims fought back, and courts in Vermont aggressively pursued the assets of the Church in an attempt to not let it escape responsibility for its decades of abuse. Vermont courts slapped liens on much of the church’s property and investment accounts. The Church ultimately settled a wave of lawsuits in 2010 for over $20 million and sold off some of its property to do so. Nonetheless, obtaining payment from the Church of settlements or verdicts may require some effort on the part of your attorney so it is best to file your case now.
Statute of Limitations in Vermont
As stories about the criminal sexual deviancy in the diocese emerged, the Vermont Legislature recognized that it would need to do something to help victims of child sexual abuse get the justice that they deserved.
Last year, Governor Phil Scott signed into law a bill that would waive the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse civil cases. In other words, every lawsuit involving allegations of abuse by Vermont priests can be filed no matter how long ago the alleged abuse happened since there are no more statutes of limitations in the state.
HB 330 repealed a previous requirement of a six-year time limit for a lawsuit. This requirement prevented most victims of child sexual abuse from filing a lawsuit for what they had to endure. HB 330 is one of the broadest reforms in the country in the recent wave of statutory changes in states such as New Jersey, New York and California.
Damages in a Vermont Sex Abuse Lawsuit
When you file a case in court seeking financial compensation for the priest sex abuse that you endured, you can recover a number of different damages. They include:
- Pain and suffering damages, including for the emotional trauma that you have suffered and continue to deal with through today
- The costs of medical care and any kind of psychiatric or psychological treatment
- Lost wages if the effects of your abused have cost you earnings or the ability to work
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Vermont Survivors of Clergy Abuse Attorneys
We will work with you from the very first call that you make to us. Once you retain us as your lawyer, we will give you legal advice on how to file your lawsuit against the Burlington Diocese.
When you file an abuse complaint, you may need to reconstruct what happened to you and produce evidence of the assault that shows that it is more likely than not to have occurred. We understand that this may not be easy for you, and we promise to work with you with understanding and sensitivity.
Call us today or contact us online to set up your free initial consultation. We are not paid for our work on your case unless you are successful in receiving financial compensation.