Diocese, former orphanage residents differ in views of recovery process

By | September 21, 2021

The Burlington diocese said in a statement last week that Bishop Coyne, Vermont Catholic Charities, and diocesan representatives “have been meeting with former residents of St. Joseph’s Orphanage one-on-one as they have requested and will continue to do so.” 
“Each meeting is unique, each person’s story is unique, and the help we offer each former resident is specific to them,” they added. “If the person feels they would be helped through counseling, we will work with them as needed.”
Hannon told CNA that “most of us feel that he [Bishop Coyne] is offering this and the one-on-one stance so that he can control the meeting and the situation.”
She said the members harbor these concerns because Bishop Coyne is “refusing” to meet with the VSJO as a group, the meetings are not recorded, and there is “some type of a counselor person evaluating you as you’re talking.”

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She also said that going to the diocese to meet with Bishop Coyne is a “hard trigger” for many of the members.
Hannon said that “if this person that sits in the meetings determines that this person needs counseling, it will be with [diocesan] counselors of their choosing and not with the members current counselor that they have been seeing and paying for years.”
She added that Bishop Coyne has affirmed that he would help members of the group, but said nothing has come to fruition.
Hannon also said that Catholic Charities of Vermont will not release orphanage records to the members. She said that members are only allowed to see their records, which contain redacted information, while they are sitting in a room with a staff member of Catholic Charities. 
The diocese told CNA Sept. 21 that “Bishop Coyne has offered one-on-one meetings to former residents which includes a support person of their choice.” 
“Bishop Coyne has offered to invite the Vermont Catholic Charities’ victim assistance coordinator to the meeting with consent, if the former resident has chosen not to bring a support person,” the statement says.
“An initial screening is completed by the victim assistance coordinator to verify basic information prior to moving forward with a therapy request,” the diocese said. “Thus far, Bishop Coyne has never denied a request for additional therapy.”
(Story continues below)

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Hannon told CNA that “not one person” has chosen to move forward with the process offered by the diocese.
The diocese told CNA that “there is a process for requesting records on the Vermont Catholic Charities website” noting that “Vermont Catholic Charities adheres to all Vermont Adoption laws outlined here.”

Joseph Bukuras is a staff writer at the Catholic News Agency. Joe holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The Catholic University of America. He has interned in the U.S. House of Representatives, on a U.S. Senate campaign, in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, and at the Susan B. Anthony List. He is based out of the Boston area.

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