Attorney General Requests Meeting with Bishop Angell

02/26/02 12:00AM By Steve Zind



(Host) The Vermont Attorney General's office has asked to meet with officials of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington to discuss allegations of past sexual abuse by priests.

The attorney general requested the meeting after the diocese acknowledged it has recently received several reports of alleged incidents.

VPR's Steve Zind reports.


(Zind) Attorney General William Sorrell says officials from the diocese have agreed to meet with his office later this week or early next week.

The Reverend Wendell Searles, the vicar of the Burlington Diocese, has confirmed the diocese has recently received several complaints of past sexual misconduct by priests. Searles says some of the alleged incidents date back to the 1960s.

The allegations come in the wake of the disclosure that at least 70 priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boston have been accused of sexual abuse. In the past several weeks, there have been similar reports in New Hampshire and Maine. Sorrell says he doesn't yet have details about the Vermont allegations:

(Sorrell) "I don't think it will be anything comparable to what we're reading about in the papers that's going on the in the State of Massachusetts, both in terms of numbers and severity. My suspicion is that anything that they have will be really quite old."

(Zind) Vermont's statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual abuse cases varies, depending on several factors. For victims who were under ten years old at the time of the incident, there is no time limit. Sorrell says Vermont law does not require the church to report alleged abuse.

(Sorrell) "But the letter of the law is one thing. The spirit of the law is another. And I'm fairly strongly of the view that a religious organization that hears information of this sort, that's at least credible, ought to be forwarding it to the authorities."

(Zind) Bishop Kenneth Angell plans to meet with the diocesan Sexual Misconduct Board later this week to consider the new allegations.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Steve Zind.

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