South Burlington’s St. John Vianney Catholic Church will host the last of six public meetings planned around the state in an effort to promote full transparency and communication about Catholic matters in Vermont.

Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington will hold a town meeting Thursday, Jan. 31 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at St. John Vianney Church, located at 160 Hinesburg Road.

The meetings come as the church faces a rise in priest misconduct headlines and a fall in parishioner attendance among the state’s Catholics, the largest religious denomination in Vermont.

“Anybody’s welcome, not just Catholics,” Coyne said in announcing what he calls “part of a continuing effort to promote full transparency about Catholic matters in the state.”

Vermont’s Roman Catholic Diocese, the target of more than 40 clergy misconduct lawsuits in the past quarter-century, has a decades-long history of defying court orders and outside review.

That’s why Coyne, leader of the state’s 72 Catholic parishes since 2015, has made headlines by agreeing to work with law enforcement, releasing past child abuse victims from nondisclosure agreements and forming a lay committee to review clergy misconduct files and publicly release the names of abusers.

“I have no idea how the meetings are going to go, but I felt it was important to establish better two-way communication with people in the pews,” he said.

The other town meetings will be held starting Jan. 10 at St. Mary’s Church, 45 Fairfield St., St. Albans; Jan. 22 at Holy Family Church, 4 Prospect St., Essex Junction; Jan. 23 at St. Theresa Church, 44 East St., Orleans; Jan. 28 at Sacred Heart Church, 238 Main St., Bennington; and Jan. 29 at Christ the King Church, 66 S. Main St., Rutland before the final meeting at St. John Vianney on Jan. 31.

According to the press release issued by the Diocese on Jan. 2, the goal of the meetings “is part of the overall effort to improve communication within the Diocese.”

“When I returned from the U.S. bishops’ meeting in November, I felt it was important to establish better two-way communication with people in the pews,” Bishop Coyne stated in the release. “Because of my schedule, it took a while to plan these meetings in easily accessible locations around the state, but now I am ready to listen and respond to concerns and questions from the Catholic community. I think it’s so important to be as open and transparent about all matters as much as possible.”

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This article contains information from reporting done by VTDigger.

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