A Look at the R.I. Priests Facing Molestation Charges
By Elizabeth Abbott
Of the seven priests who are being sued, five have been named previously in media.
The names of the remaining two priests, however, did not come to light until Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. filed suit recently against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in a dispute over liability insurance coverage.
Though the Superior Court file has been sealed, the federal lawsuit filed by Aetna summarizes the allegations against Father Micarelli when he was assigned to St. Alexander's Church in Warren.
According to the federal court suit, Father Micarelli is accused of molesting a 10-year-old boy in 1975, after the priest allegedly invited the youth to stay overnight at his summer home. Father Micarelli, who retired in 1989, now lives in Florida.
The federal suit by Aetna also identifies the Rev. Richard Meglio as the subject of another lawsuit brought in Superior Court, Providence, by a man who accuses the priest of molesting him in the 1970s when Father Meglio was an assistant parish priest and assistant pastor at Our Lady of Grace Church in Johnston.
The plaintiff, who is not identified by his real name in the lawsuit, alleges that his family asked for a priest to visit him in the hospital, where he was being treated for "psychological distress," and Father Meglio assaulted him there. The molestation continued on a regular basis after the first incident, the complaint alleges. Father Meglio now lives in Massachusetts.
The following five priests are also defendants in civil damage suits:
• Rev. William C. O'Connell, 72, is a respondent in four of the lawsuits. The pastor of St. Mary's Church in Bristol in the 1970s, Father O'Connell pleaded no contest in June 1986 to 26 counts of sexual contact with three teenage boys. He served one year in a prison work-release program and then left the state. He now lives in New Jersey.
Father O'Connell was the subject of the first lawsuit ever filed against the church for priest abuse. The church settled that case, brought by a Narragansett man and his mother, in 1990, but the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
• Rev. Alfred R. Desrosiers is the subject of two molestation lawsuits, both of them brought by women. He is accused of molesting the women when he served as assistant pastor of St. Joan of Arc Church in Cumberland in the 1970s.
In 1993, Desrosiers, 58, was placed on a leave of absence from his post as pastor of Our Lady of Victories parish in Woonsocket after one of the women called the bishop's office to complain about the alleged molestation. He now lives in Providence.
• The Rev. Robert A. Marcantonio is the subject of six lawsuits brought by men who have accused the priest of molesting them as boys when he was an assistant pastor at St. Mary's Church in Cranston in the late 1960s and at St. John Vianney Church in Cumberland in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Father Marcantonio, 52, was also the subject of a lawsuit brought by a former altar boy who accused the priest of molesting him in Iowa from 1973 to 1975. That suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Des Moines, alleged church officials in Rhode Island had received complaints about Marcantonio and sent him to Iowa in 1970 for graduate work and to undergo psychiatric treatment.
The Des Moines suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Father Marcantonio returned to Rhode Island in the mid-1970s and served as chaplain at Rhode Island College from 1980 to 1989 and also as weekend pastor at St. John Vianney Church. He took a leave of absence in 1989 and has since moved to Phoenix, Ariz.
• Rev. James M. Silva, 54, is being sued by nine men, who have accused the priest of molesting them when they were youngsters at four different parishes around Rhode Island throughout the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s.
Father Silva has also been arraigned on one count of second-degree sexual assault stemming from allegations made by Russell Cote, one of the men who has brought suit. Father Silva pleaded not guilty to that charge last month.
In 1986, Father Silva was assigned to the diocese's Office of Ministry Formation in Providence, but he took a medical leave of absence from that job last spring, shortly before lawsuits were filed against him. He now lives in East Providence.
• Rev. Robert Carpentier is the subject of one lawsuit brought by a Woonsocket man who says the priest assaulted him in 1973 and 1974 when he was 13 years old and a communicant of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Woonsocket.
Father Carpentier resigned as pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in North Smithfield in April 1992, after the Most Rev. Louis E. Gelineau, bishop of the Diocese of Providence, became aware of the allegation against the priest. Bishop Gelineau has said there were no plans for Carpentier, 53, to return to active ministry.
Two other diocesan priests have recently been accused of abuse but, according to the diocese, are not now the subject of civil action.
• In March of this year, Bishop Gelineau announced he was placing Monsignor Louis W. Dunn on leave after a complaint by a woman of sexual misconduct. Dunn, 73, was the pastor of St. Thomas Church in Providence for more than two decades.
Bishop Gelineau declined to elaborate on the allegation, except to say it was being investigated by former Massachusetts State Police Lt. Robert McCarthy, the diocese's "education and compliance coordinator for sexual concerns."
That investigation continues.
• In November 1993, the Rev. Joseph A. Abruzzese, 34, the assistant pastor of St. Anthony Church in North Providence, was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of disorderly conduct after allegedly molesting a 16-year-old boy in Roger Williams Park. Father Abruzzese pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was placed on a leave of absence after his arrest. His trial is scheduled for July 24.
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