Burlington Diocese Will Cooperate With Orphanage Abuse Investigation

Sep 10, 2018

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington will cooperate with a task force investigating decades-old abuse allegations at a now-closed Burlington orphanage.

A press conference to announce details of the investigation was held Monday morning at the Burlington Police Department by Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo, along with Vermont State Police and the Chittenden County state's attorney.

The investigation will delve into allegations outlined in a recent BuzzFeed News article about child abuse at Roman Catholic orphanages, including St. Joseph's in Burlington. The allegations include physical and sexual assault.

Donovan said Monday that the initial focus will be on the most horrific allegations: the murder of children and infants. The attorney general acknowledged that other serious abuse allegations will face legal challenges such as statutes of limitation, but he said a full investigation is important.

"Justice doesn't always mean and doesn't always occur in a courtroom," Donovan said. "Justice oftentimes means that victims are given an acknowledgement and an apology and an opportunity to share their story."

More from VPR — Report Assembles Allegations Of Decades Of Abuse At Burlington Orphanage [Aug. 29]

In a statement Sunday, Bishop Christopher Coyne said the Diocese of Burlington will cooperate fully with investigators.

"There was a lot of truth in the BuzzFeed story," Coyne told VPR. "And then there's some of the more fantastic stories involving some of the nuns there. And I would hope that as this goes forward, we come to a conclusion as much as possible about these behaviors to be able to set them aside and not have a specter of criminality hanging over the nuns, at least in terms of some of the allegations involving of murder."

Coyne offered to meet with survivors of the alleged abuse and said he hopes the church can be a source of healing.

Louise Piché, 73, was at Monday's press conference. She said she attended St. Joseph's when she was around 5 years old and identified herself as a survivor of abuse there.

Piché said she has been speaking out for years and has participated in other investigations. Still, she's hopeful this one will finally bring some peace:

"My coming today is to heal this, to heal the pain that's in this belly," she said.

Piché said she's not sure yet if she will take part in the new investigation.

Update 4:19 p.m. This piece was updated after Monday's press conference.