Evangelism Exposed

“Jesus wept.” Joh 11:35

Plaintiff testifes at priest-abuse trail


The alleged victim in a clergy sex abuse trial in Burlington testified Wednesday that the Rev. Edward Paquette molested him at his first altar boy training session at Christ the King Church in the fall of 1977.

“I was a little confused Page=001 Column=001 OK,0000.00by it,” the former altar boy, now 40 and a resident of Waitsfield, told the six-man, six-woman jury. “I wasn’t quite sure why he’d do that.”

The man said he was a 9-year-old fourth-grader when he went to the sacristy at the church, a room near the pulpit, for the training session.

He said he was clothed when Paquette picked him up and held him with one hand over his genitals and one hand over his mouth and then swung him in the air for about a minute. He said the incident was the first of between 20 and 50 similar molestations that occurred over the next six months.

“Sometimes he would laugh,” the man said of Paquette. “He did it to all the kids in the room during the trainings.”

The man said for years he didn’t talk with anyone about the incidents, except for other altar boys he said Paquette groped in the same way. He said he initially kept quiet because he’d been taught priests were God’s emissaries, and later because he was ashamed.

“I had some fear that by telling someone what happened to me, people would think something was wrong with me, that I was not normal,” he said. “I was ashamed and embarrassed.”

The man is suing the state’s Roman Catholic diocese, claiming it was responsible for the abuse because it knew Paquette was a child molester when it hired him and placed Paquette in parishes where he would have access to altar boys. The Burlington Free Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Diocesan lawyers have argued then-Bishop John Marshall decided to employ Paquette based on the advice of church psychologists and psychiatrists who believed Paquette’s sexual problems were cured.

Diocesan lawyer Kaveh Shahi, in his questioning of the alleged victim, pressed him on why he didn’t speak up sooner about the abuse.

“I thought it was kind of inappropriate but it wasn’t a painful thing,” the man told Shahi, speaking of the molestation incidents. “I didn’t think it was bad at the time.”

Shahi asked the man to explain how he initially had no sexual intimacy issues with his wife but later blamed the abuse by Paquette for his reluctance to have his wife touch his genitals, a factor that led to the couple’s divorce in 2006.

“The excitement when it was a new relationship had worn off,” he said. “I didn’t realize that this intimacy was part of a healthy marriage until 2004 or 2005. I thought there were bigger issues in our marriage than that.”

The man remained composed through most of his testimony but became emotional while discussing the premature birth of his son, when he learned his son might suffer from lifelong birth defects. He said he asked what he could do and was told to pray.

“It was a very difficult time,” he said tearfully. The man, who stopped going to church after the molestation incidents, said he did begin praying and now does so daily. He said his son is in good health.

Earlier in the day, two priests who were principals at parochial high schools in Vermont, told the jury they never would have hired someone with a history of sexually abusing children to teach in their schools.

“No, I would not have,” said the Rev. Roland Rivard, a former principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington. Asked why not, Rivard said, “Because of the threat of potential harm to the students.”

The Rev. Richard Lavalley, a former principal at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland, agreed. “I wouldn’t want to take that risk,” he said.

Rivard said he and Paquette lived at the Christ the King rectory at the same time in the late 1970s but he did not know Paquette well.

“He was a very private man,” Rivard said.

Rivard said he had no knowledge of Paquette’s past conduct or of the allegations involving altar boys at Christ the King Church until after Paquette was dismissed from priestly duties in 1978.

The dismissal action was taken by the diocese after parish parents went to Marshall with reports that Paquette was molesting boys.

August 21, 2008 - Posted by | Altar Boys, Catholic Church, Church Scandals, Sex Abuse

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