Vermont Catholic Diocese Asks Judge to Reject Jury’s Judgment

The Catholic Diocese of Vermont or the Diocese of Burlington has asked a judge to dismiss the jury’s verdict which awarded a priest sex abuse victim $3.6 million last month. Lawyers for the plaintiff have countered that their client is willing to use the money for the Catholic education of children but that offer has been ignored by the Diocese.
This is an interesting case especially the church’s stance after the verdict. We live in a country whose civil justice system is ultimately based upon the judgment of one’s peers in the jury box. After all the legal hurdles have been overcome, a civil trial comes down to the judgment of the jury. In some instances, the judge may overrule a jury’s verdict if it is illegal or grossly unfair. However, most judges hesitate to do this because they understand the importance of the jury system. As a trial lawyer, I’ve always felt comfortable with leaving the verdict and the amount of compensation in the hands of a jury. The outcomes have not always been in my favor but the system works.
Another aspect of this post-case wrangling concerns the survivor of abuse. Is the Diocese of Burlington saying his life isn’t worth what the jury awarded? Is the Diocese saying what he suffered really wasn’t all that bad? The priest who abused the plaintiff in this case was a well-known pedophile, Fr. Edward Paquette and the Diocese of Burling knew about his sex abuse history before they brought him to work with children in Vermont.
One final thought-how can the Catholic Church in Vermont have any moral credibility when it denies responsibility for its own actions? It’s part of Catholic teaching that bad behavior has consequences. Isn’t that what the jury verdict tells us? Responsibility and accountability are important qualities in moral leadership. If Vermont’s Catholic Church shirks such, how can it claim moral leadership?