Mike Donoghue leaves First Amendment group’s board after dispute over church work

Mike Donoghue

Longtime Vermont journalist Mike Donoghue has resigned under pressure as vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition’s board, according to Lola Duffert of the nonprofit news organization VTDigger. The issue was his ongoing involvement in helping the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington deal with issues of sexual abuse by priests.

Donoghue, who retired several years ago after a decades-long career at the Burlington Free Press, is a member of a lay committee appointed by the Catholic Church “to investigate the church’s personnel files and release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse,” Duffert wrote.

Justin Silverman, the executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC), told VTDigger that NEFAC was under the impression that Donoghue’s service on the church committee would wrap up in 2019. After it became clear that Donoghue had continued to work on church business, the NEFAC board concluded that Donoghue had to go.

Donoghue told VTDigger in a written statement that NEFAC misunderstood the committee’s purpose, saying it “was never given the job of determining what church records would be disclosed to the public.”

I’ve got all kinds of entangling alliances here. Donoghue is a friendly acquaintance who I interviewed for my book “The Return of the Moguls.” I’m also friendly with Silverman and NEFAC president Karen Bordeleau, a former editor of the Providence Journal, who — believe it or not — shared the same Northeastern co-op job with me at The Call of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, in the 1970s. I occasionally speak at NEFAC events.

In my experience, these are all smart, ethical journalists who are trying to do the right thing. Unfortuately, the difference in their perspectives proved to be too much to overcome.

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