(Host) Vermont’s attorney general has finished looking into sexual misconduct charges against two Roman Catholic priests. William Sorrell says the allegations against the two were serious, but no criminal charges will be filed. Sorrell says his office continues to investigate allegations against nearly 40 Vermont priests, including eight who are still active in the ministry.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) Sorrell says the sexual abuse allegations against the two priests date back to the 1980s. He says the reviews of the two were slowed by witnesses’ hazy memories, an alleged victim who didn’t want to talk to authorities, and a lack of cooperation from the priests.
Sorrell says in one case, the priest reportedly had a twelve-year relationship with an altar boy. The relationship turned sexual only after the person was no longer a minor. Another reported victim of the same priest declined to talk to investigators. Sorrell says the priest also refused to meet with authorities.
In the other review, Sorrell says his office is unable to file charges against the priest because of Vermont’s Statute of Limitations:
(Sorrell) “We talked with a victim who disclosed conduct that was clearly criminal. But the nature of the conduct and the statute of limitations has run on that so we couldn’t bring a criminal charge, even though we view the evidence in that case as being compelling.”
(Zind) Sorrell says the priest under review in this case refused the attorney general’s request to take a lie detector test. The two priests are among six who have been placed on administrative leave by the diocese last May.
In a statement released Monday, Bishop Kenneth Angell says the church’s Misconduct Review Board will take a close look at the attorney general’s information. William O’Brien, is the lawyer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. O’Brien says it will probably take several weeks to conduct its review:
(O’Brien) “The fact that any priest is not being charged criminally by the attorney general’s office does not mean that they will not have sanctions imposed against them under Canon Law.”
(Zind) O’Brien says the bishop has made it clear that if there are any credible allegations against a priest, regardless of when the incident occurred, he will not be allowed to serve.
Attorney General Sorrell says in addition to the six priests on administrative leave, his office has received information about four more active priests. None of the priests’ names have been made public.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Montpelier.