Diocese of Burlington to sell headquarters for sex abuse settlements

The Diocese of Burlington is selling its headquarters and other church properties in hopes of securing funds to settle two dozen pending sex abuse cases before they go to trial.

Chittenden Superior Court Judge Helen Toor has called for one trial to resolve all remaining civil cases related to the former priest Edward Paquette, who worked in the diocese in the 1970s.

According to the Rutland Herald, three past juries have ruled that the diocese was negligent in hiring and supervising the retired priest. One jury issued a record $8.7 million verdict in May 2008, another issued a nearly $3.6 million verdict in December 2008 and a third issued a $2.2 million verdict in October 2009.

Three other cases involve former priest Alfred Willis and there are four other separate trials on unrelated misconduct lawsuits.

Judge Toor has urged the lawyers in the case to try to settle all remaining cases through mediation before an April hearing.

On Tuesday attorneys said they had agreed to settle a Vermont Supreme Court appeal of the $8.7 million verdict in the case of former Burlington altar boy Perry Babel.

Church counsel Thomas McCormick said the amount of the settlement was to be kept confidential.

“It is the hope of the diocese that further cases will be resolved in a just and charitable manner," he commented to the Rutland Herald.

To settle the expenses, the diocese has announced it will sell its former Camp Holy Cross in Colchester and a 32-acre Burlington headquarters overlooking Lake Champlain. The latter is an historic property valued at $6 million.

"The diocese hopes the money will generate enough proceeds to settle all these cases," McCormick explained.

The headquarters houses the offices of Bishop Salvatore Matano and most of its statewide clerical and charitable programs. Their new location has not been decided upon.

There are about 118,000 Catholics in the diocese.

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