Church Admits Finding Documents in Priest Abuse Case Thought to Be Missing

By Sam Hemingway
Burlington Free Press
August 28, 2006

[For links to other articles on the Vermont files, with links to some documents that have already been released, see Diocese Settles Priest Abuse Case for $965,000, by Sam Hemingway, Burlington Free Press (4/20/06) and the links there.]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has found 27 years' worth of files on a priest accused of child sexual abuse, documents the church had previously said didn't exist.

Church lawyers, appearing at a hearing in Chittenden County Superior Court late last week, confirmed the discovery of the papers.

The diocese and the priest, the Rev. George Paulin, are facing a lawsuit brought by a former Newport altar boy who alleges Paulin molested him in the 1970s. The case is one of 23 pending cases filed by people alleging that as children they were molested by Vermont priests.

"They were misfiled in the parish file," diocesan attorney Tom McCormick said of the newly discovered papers. McCormick also said other documents thought to be missing were recently found in the desk of former Bishop Kenneth Angell, who retired last year.

Judge Ben Joseph, the presiding judge in the priest sex abuse cases, said he was troubled by the belated discovery of the documents, but will delay a decision on whether to punish the diocese over the matter until he better understands what happened, and why.

"The fact that more things have been found causes me real concern," Joseph said.

Jerome O'Neill, the attorney for the former altar boy in the Paulin case, has alleged in court papers that the church concealed the documents and asked Joseph to forgo a trial in the Paulin case and award his client damages. The Burlington Free Press does not disclose the names of alleged abuse victims without their consent.

McCormick told Joseph he discovered the missing folder containing information about Paulin for the years 1971-1997 in what was marked as the North Troy parish file. Normally, the information would have been contained in Paulin's personnel file.

Until McCormick's discovery, the church had maintained it had disclosed all the files it had on Paulin to the court and O'Neill.

McCormick said both files were kept at the diocese's North Avenue headquarters. He said he did not know much about what was in the paperwork found in Angell's desk.

"I don't know who those documents in Bishop Angell's desk are about and I don't know what's in them," McCormick told Joseph.

In addition to punishing the diocese, O'Neill has asked Joseph to take action against another diocesan attorney, William O'Brien, who O'Neill claimed is primarily responsible for failing to fully divulge documents in the Paulin and other priest abuse cases.

"Not having all the documents has been the largest disruption to this case," O'Neill told Joseph at the hearing last week.

O'Brien did not attend the hearing or respond to a telephone request for an interview. According to an affidavit he filed with the court earlier this month, O'Brien said his failure to find and turn over the Paulin documents was a mistake.

"I did not willfully withhold documents, nor did I intentionally file false statements," he wrote.

In April, the diocese settled the first of the priest abuse cases to come before Joseph, paying $965,000 to Michael Gay, who had accused the Rev. Edward Paquette of molesting him in the late 1970s.

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at


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