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Vermont Catholic Diocese Settles Another Lawsuit

Nov 23, 2003 | AP

Vermont's Catholic Church has settled a second lawsuit accusing its priests of child sexual abuse.

The Diocese of Burlington will pay Ronald Ploof, a 44-year-old Colchester man, an undisclosed sum in return for his dropping a court case against it.

"The settlement is confidential in terms of the monetary figure," said Ploof's lawyer. "But the diocese made a significant effort to get to a middle ground that would satisfy our client."

Ploof says he was a preteen altar boy in Burlington when the Rev. Michael Madden sexually abused him at the priest's private camp in Warren in 1970.

Madden was convicted of lewd conduct with another minor in 1989. A jury awarded that victim $162,500 in damages before Madden died in 2000.

The diocese's settlement comes weeks after it agreed to pay Paul Babeu, a 34-year-old Massachusetts native, an unspecified low-five-figure sum to drop the church portion of a civil lawsuit involving the Rev. George Paulin, most recently a Ludlow pastor before resigning this year.

Babeu, now of Arizona, said he was 15 when Paulin allegedly sexually abused him on an overnight visit to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom during a school vacation in December 1984 and January 1985.

The church still faces at least two civil lawsuits in Chittenden Superior Court.

Michael Bernier, a 46-year-old California investment firm executive, alleges the Rev. James McShane, who resigned as a Rutland pastor this year, sexually abused him as a parochial school student in St. Albans around 1969.

Robert Douglas II, a 38-year-old Burlington man, alleges the former Rev. Alfred Willis, no longer of Vermont, sexually abused and exploited him as a child at St. Ann's Catholic Church in Milton around 1979.

The diocese's lawyer, William M. O'Brien of Winooski, hoped the latest news showed the church's willingness to resolve charges of priest misconduct.

"We really have reached out and tried to resolve all of these cases without regard to legal defenses and to see if we can come up with a figure that makes sense to both sides," O'Brien said.

The diocese recently agreed to another unspecified financial settlement with "one of the premier law firms in Boston" on a claim, not filed in court, of priest misconduct some 40 years ago, O'Brien said.

The Diocese of Burlington doesn't have insurance for such cases, so it will have to pay for any settlement with resources on hand.

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