Catholic Orphanage Inquiry Concludes with Steps Toward Healing — But no Church Help

When former residents of Burlington’s long-shuttered St. Joseph’s Orphanage saw how a 2018 BuzzFeed News story about past “unrelenting physical and psychological abuse” finally sparked a state investigation, they hoped for what they saw as decades-overdue justice.

“I don’t think people realize how long that stays with people,” one unidentified survivor said in a statement 50 years after leaving the facility, which housed some 13,000 children from its opening in 1854 to its closing in 1974. “I’ve seen a therapist off and on for years, and I’ve found that the ways I automatically react to things is related to some of what I experienced.”

Although the resulting investigation confirmed in 2020 that “abuse did occur … and that many children suffered,” authorities said they couldn’t press any criminal charges because the accusations were too old. To compensate, they launched a rare effort to help former residents seek restorative justice from religious and government leaders.

Four years later, the St. Joseph’s Orphanage Restorative Justice Inquiry has released a final report chronicling participants’ push for responsible parties to acknowledge and apologize for past misconduct, offer personal records and restitution, and adopt measures “to ensure that these harms never happen again.”

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