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Bishop Coyne to Empanel Committee to Examine Abuse Claims

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Bishop Christopher Coyne - FILE: MATTHEW ROY
  • File: Matthew Roy
  • Bishop Christopher Coyne
Vermont Bishop Christopher Coyne announced on Wednesday that he is creating an independent panel of laypeople to review clergy personnel files and draft a public list of state priests accused of sexual abuse.

The announcement comes as allegations of widespread priest abuse coverups in Pennsylvania have roiled the Catholic church. Locally, the Vermont diocese has grappled with allegations of horrific abuse at the long-shuttered St. Joseph's Orphanage.

Coyne did not provide a timeline for release of the list, but said he would convey "a sense of urgency" to the committee. He said he would soon reach out to potential committee members. Coyne is scheduled to hold a press conference later Wednesday.



"The crimes of the past were horrific and the damage to the victims and their loved ones horrendous," Coyne said in a prepared statement. "We will never be able to apologize adequately but will continue to try and hopefully have some positive impact in their lives going forward."

The committee will examine files that were "thoroughly reviewed" in 2002 and 2003 in the wake of the Boston Catholic church abuse scandal, Coyne said. All files containing a credible allegation between 1950 to 2000 were turned over to the Vermont Attorney General's Office.
"Once the committee has created a list for publication, we will reach out to any survivors we can to let them know that the list will soon be published and that it will include the name of their abuser," Coyne said. "We will also try and reach out to the family members of any deceased clergy whose name will be on the list."

Coyne said that since 2002, there had been one "credible and substantiated" allegation against a priest, which involved an "at risk" adult. No one currently in the ministry has credible allegations against them, Coyne said.

On August 27, BuzzFeed published an investigation documenting decades of alleged physical, sexual and mental abuse suffered by children at St. Joseph's, a Burlington orphanage that closed in 1974. The story included claims that children died at the hands of nuns.

Burlington police and Vermont State Police are leading a task force to examine the allegations, most of which were previously documented in lawsuits against the church in the 1990s. Coyne has pledged full cooperation.

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