Burlington Catholic Diocese releases report on alleged priest abuse

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BURLINGTON, Vt.- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington released the findings of a nearly ten month long investigation Thursday into decades of alleged abuse.

All but one of the accusations revealed in the report happened before 2000.

John Mahoney, 65, of Burlington grew up in the Queen City with a large Catholic family.

“Father Foster told me I was blindfolded so that I would feel comfortable,” he said.

Mahoney says he was betrayed by a man he was taught to trust, Fr. Edward Foster. It started when he was in 7th or 8th grade, during a trip to Montreal for what the priest told him was a wellness study.

“All of this part of the study was done while I was in the nude,” he said. “After the exercise sessions, father foster indicated that someone who has exercised deserves a good rub down,” according to Mahoney.

Foster is just one on a list of 40 clergy members accused of sexually abusing children. Only 13 are alive.

“There is no plus side for us to hide anything anymore,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne.

The bishop formed a committee in November to compile a list of credible accusations. It consisted of seven people including Mahoney and others in the community, not clergy.

“An allegation based on the facts of the case; natural, plausible and probable; corroborate with other evidence from another source; acknowledged or admitted to by the accused. That was our standard,” said Mark Redmond, committee member.  

The committee reviewed the files of at least 52 priests, some of which consisted of more than a thousand pages. They revealed patterns of abuse by priests and mishandling of the accusations by church leaders.

“A lot of times there wasn’t an effort to make sure these things didn’t happen,” said Coyne. “Guys went away to treatment and they came back and they said they were cured. The bishop would appoint them back in the ministry and they would do it again.”

Coyne says over the years, the church has settled with dozens of accusers, totaling nearly $32 million.

“It should have been released in 2001 or earlier,” said Jerry O’Neill, a Burlington attorney who represented several clients, and has been after the church to release a list of the accused for over decade.

“These people were out of ministry, we’re not worried about that,” he said. “But they could still molest other contacts, where if they are publicly identified it’s much less likely that will be able to molest children,” O’Neill said.

Right now, O’Neill has six other cases pending.

In the meantime, Coyne says the church continues to implement a series of new protocols.

“Now we’ve actually put into place the same requirements for bishops we have for priests in terms of reporting, I think it’s a very positive thing for the United States,” he said. “I’m hoping that people can say we tried to lay to rest what we have.”

Mahoney’s alleged abuser is dead. But he says he’s had a sense of closure with the public release of Foster’s name.

“We are releasing these names to indicate to you that you are not alone and if you feel the strength and power to come forward, definitely do that,” he said.

The church has handed over this report to law enforcement including the Attorney General’s Office which is heading a separate investigation into abuse claims at the former St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington. It’s not clear when that investigation will conclude.

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