BURLINGTON, Vermont — In response to concerns raised by survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families, the Catholic Diocese of Burlington and Vermont Catholic Charities have contracted with a mental health counselor to assist them, the organizations said Thursday.

“In many conversations and communications with survivors, Bishop Christopher Coyne and other church leaders have been told that it is often difficult for survivors to approach the church directly, especially since it was an agent of the church that was responsible for their abuse,” the groups said in a news release. “Many felt that there needed to be another way to get the help and support they need.”

The counselor, Sheila Conroy, will serve as a victim assistance coordinator “to assist in bringing about healing, justice and peace for those suffering from sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy and others employed by the church in years past,” the news release said.

Survivors can contact Conroy directly. She will provide therapeutic service and “confidentially communicate” victims’ needs and concerns with diocesan leaders to provide the best care plan.

She has held positions as contractor to the state of Vermont, dealing with the effects of sexual abuse on children and their families.

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