Tag Archives: civil unions

The flip side of a bishop’s obituary

Kenneth Angell, the former bishop of the diocese of Burlington, has died. The Burlington Free Press marked the occasion with a story that completely failed to mention  his “see no evil, hear no evil, maybe there’ll be no evil” approach to the Roman Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal.

But hey, I’ll be happy to fill in the blanks.

Angell was stationed in Burlington from 1992 to 2005. Before that, he served for 18 years as the bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, one of the many epicenters of priestly criminality and hierarchical complicity.

A total of 36 lawsuits were filed by alleged victims of clergy sex abuse in the Diocese. They were , eight years after Angell had moved on to Burlington, for $13.5 million. A couple examples of Angell’s approach to victims’ complaints:

Bishop Angell testified in a 1990 lawsuit that he did not take seriously allegations – made by both parishioners and assistant priests – that the Rev. William O’Connell was molesting boys. The priest was convicted, served a short sentence, moved to New Jersey, committed more crimes and died in prison. In another Rhode Island case, Bishop Angell in 1989 promised to “take care of it” when the Rev. Normand Demers was accused of misconduct with boys while working at a Haitian orphanage, according to a former orphanage staffer. The priest was brought back to work in the Providence diocese.

“Did not take seriously,” indeed. This is exactly the kind of wishful thinking that turned a handful of bad apples into a worldwide scandal that left thousands of victims emotionally scarred, and undermined the moral authority of the Church.

At the same time, Angell was a man on fire when his own definition of morality came under threat.

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About that vacancy on the state supreme court

Last week, longtime Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley announced he will retire at the end of his term, next March. There followed the predictable encomiums to his service and legal mind and his staunch liberalism, notably expressed in the 1999 civil unions decision.

You know the first thing that crossed my mind?

Who gets to fill the vacancy: Peter Shumlin or his successor?

Yeah, I immediately went to the politics. Vermont Political Observer through and through. The stakes aren’t nearly as high as for the U.S. Supreme Court, but there are definitely stakes. Presumably Phil Scott and Sue Minter would have different qualifications in mind if they got to name one of the Court’s five Justices.

I don’t know for sure; no one in the media has seen fit to inquire about the candidates’ judicial philosophy and their views of Vermont jurisprudence.

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Marion Milne 1935-2014

I’m saddened to hear of the death of Marion Milne, pioneering lawmaker, businessperson, and mother of gubernatorial candidate Scott Milne. VTDigger reports that she “died unexpectedly Monday morning at her home in Washington.”

I saw her in person for the first time at Milne’s campaign launch last month, and now I’m sorry I didn’t try to meet her and express my respect.

Marion Milne founded the family travel agency in 1975 shortly after graduating from Goddard College. That agency has grown and thrived under her leadership and Scott’s, during very challenging times for the travel agency field.

Of course, her most significant public moment came in 2000, when she was one of a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of Vermont’s groundbreaking civil unions law — the first step on the road to marriage equality. For her courage, she was voted out of office that fall after serving three terms in the State House. From a post-election account: 

Milne knew her vote could lead to the end of her career, as did others. State Rep. John Edwards, who represents two towns along the Canadian border, also got the boot in what became a single-issue race. Edwards, a former state trooper, said he started to get that sinking feeling while standing at a polling place Tuesday. He noticed the averted gazes, the voters who had never turned out before, the thumbs-up signs directed at the other two candidates.

… Edwards said he has lost longtime friends. Milne has endured slurs like “queer lover” aimed at her and her 13-year-old grandson and watched her travel agency lose business.

“There are a lot of people angry with me,” she said from her home, shaking her head.

She had endured a bitter campaign, often encountering hostility while going door-to-door and finding herself alienated from former supporters and friends. She was on the right side of history, but that must have been cold comfort at the time.

Marion Milne was a hard worker till the end, as reflected in this word from the Milne family: “On the day she died, Marion had an appointment to have her hair done, planned to work at her desk in the travel agency, and attend a board meeting for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.”

I’ve written plenty about Scott Milne’s campaign, but now is not the time for partisanship. It’s a time for respect, love, and family. My best wishes to the entire Milne family and the agency, and to Scott, now faced with carrying on a long-odds campaign shadowed by the loss of his mother and business partner.

Godspeed, Marion Milne.