One Priest: How a Vermont Cleric Kept Abusing Children

The personnel file of the former Rev. Edward Paquette, hidden by Vermont’s Catholic Church for nearly a half-century, contains a startling confession as to why leaders expelled the most problematic priest in the history in the state’s largest religious denomination.

“No longer could keep lid on things,” a 1978 internal memo says.

But a rare look at the records shows that’s not the biggest surprise.

“My name is Father,” the cleric wrote in a 1972 introductory letter to the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. “I am requesting of you to serve my priestly ministry.”

The Massachusetts native said he had been a priest for 15 years, was working in the Midwest and wanted to move back east to be closer to his aging parents. Almost as an aside, he added: “I did have problems but received medical treatment, and I am now cured.”

Paquette didn’t say his problem was sexually abusing boys.

Arriving in Vermont three months later, the priest was assigned to a parish in Rutland in 1972, only to continue molesting minors as he was transferred to Montpelier in 1974 and Burlington in 1976.

“Despite the demands of two sets of irate parents that ‘something be done about this,’ Father Paquette’s pastor and I are determined to take the risk of leaving him in his present assignment,” then Vermont Catholic Bishop John Marshall wrote a colleague just before more complaints led to the priest’s termination in 1978. “Our thinking is that, knowing the awareness of others concerning his problem, Father Paquette will have reason for ‘self-control.’”

A quarter-century later, more than 30 Vermonters began filing civil lawsuits against the diocese for negligence in hiring and supervising the cleric they accuse of molesting them.

Paquette, now 90 and retired in Massachusetts, was one of 40 Vermont priests recently named by a lay-led church committee investigating child sexual abuse by clergy over the past seven decades.

Read more at VT Digger