Missing Priest Files Found
By Darren Perron
August 28, 2006
Nearly 27 years worth of paperwork on a priest, accused of child sexual abuse, has suddenly turned up. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington found the missing files -- documents the church had previously claimed didn't exist.
The files contain information about the Reverend George Paulin. He and the diocese are being sued by a former altar boy in Newport. He claims Paulin molested him during the 1970s. The found files have some questioning whether there was a church cover-up.
The files contained information about Paulin during the years 1971 through 1997.
Lawyers asked for the missing paperwork 2 years ago, but say the Diocese claimed the documents didn't exist.
"Either the diocese concealed them or didn't look very hard," said Jerry O'Neill, the lawyer representing the alleged victim.
Now O'Neill wants the presiding judge to forgo a trial and award his client damages in the case.
The paperwork does not directly link Paulin to any sexual abuse. But O'Neill says it shows a questionable character, who should have been watched closely by the Diocese.
"Would they have necessarily shown that he was sexually abusing children -- no. But would it have shown a problem-- absolutely," said O'Neill.
Church officials did not want to talk on camera, but said this was simply a clerical error. The documents were misfiled under the North Troy parish and not in Paulin's personnel file.
Presiding Judge Ben Joseph says he's troubled by the discovery. But he will delay a decision on whether to punish the diocese until he better understands what happened, and why.
A spokesperson for the Diocese says it will be up to the Bishop if there's a settlement in this case.
The Paulin sex-abuse lawsuit is one of 25 pending cases against Vermont priests. None of them are still practicing, but three still live in Vermont.
O'Neill credits the Diocese new lawyer for the discovery and says the Church has been much more thorough since they hired him. He says other documents, thought to be missing, were found in former Bishop Kenneth Angell's desk.
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