Burlington bishop discusses status of orphan abuse investigation

Local News

Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington detailed the status of an ongoing investigation into alleged abuse at the closed St. Joseph’s Orphanage at a town meeting Thursday.

A committee appointed by Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan is currently looking into the allegations, reviewing all clergy personnel files that contain credible allegations of sexual abuse.

In South Burlington on Thursday, Coyne said the investigation is making progress, although one challenge is dealing with adoption records, which are often sealed.

“When women and families gave up their children, sometimes they said we do not want the child to know who their parents were,” he said. “And so those are sealed records, and can only be given out by the person who asked for them to be sealed, or by a court order.”

A Buzzfeed article detailing decades of alleged abuse at the closed St. Joseph’s Orphanage lead Coyne to schedule the series of meetings. The bishop has also discussed the investigation in in St. Albans, Essex Junction and Bennington. Meetings in Orleans and Rutland were rescheduled due to incliment weather.

The committee is reviewing the allegations and will make public the names of people credibly accused of abuse. 

The final report is expected to be issued sometime this year.

Coyne said he was motivated to improve communication within the diocese after attending the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November.

“I felt it was important to establish better two-way communication with people in the pews,” he said. “I am ready to listen and respond to concerns and questions from the Catholic community.”

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