Vermont Sex Abuse Lawsuit Verdict: $8.7Million

While the $8.7 million civil verdict is arguably the largest in Vermont’s history, it is not the only matter that makes the sex abuse lawsuit settlement unique. Revelation of internal church documents revealed one bishop threatening to sue another bishop over liability issues. Bishop Salvatore Matano sent a letter to Bishop John D’Arcy threatening to sue his diocese for not disclosing Rev. Edward Paquette’s prior abuse history. Matano wrote in part, the survivor “would have been successful had they pursued a claim for damages against your diocese in this matter.” D’Arcy didn’t take too kindly to the not so subtle threat from his brother bishop. D’Arcy responded, “I do not see how we are assisted by imputing words or creating lapses of words in the fashion which supports the cause of your diocese. I regret deeply and take very seriously your threat to bring this diocese into civil court. I pray that will not occur.”
This exchange between Catholic bishops is absolutely unprecedented. It’s just not the way bishops interact. If there are disputes, they usually are handled behind closed doors and never in writing. It shows that the two bishops never thought their heated correspondence would ever see the light of day.
The verdict includes both compensatory as well as punitive damages and clearly demonstrates the importance of obtaining the internal or secret church documents. Without such documents, a survivor of sexual abuse is not likely to prevail in his quest for justice. These internal, secret documents contain the history of abuse and cover-up that has rocked the Catholic Church.