1:30 Today, Press Conference: Accused Priests Kept in Ministry by Ri Diocese
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
November 20, 2013
New records show accused Catholic priests are still in RI parishes
One of them, ousted this year, was accused months or years earlier
Groups say hundreds of abuse reports seem to be missing from police release
They call on AG and US Attorney to launch investigation of Providence diocese
Holding poster-size blow-ups of selected documents, clergy sex abuse victims and a leader of a research/watchdog group will:
--- point to new evidence that RI Catholic officials continue to keep accused priests in ministry without informing the public
-- highlight "shocking revelations" in newly public records of alleged sex abuse by RI priests, and
-- urge prosecutors to investigate whether the diocese's retention of accused priests is putting minors at risk
1:30pm, Wednesday, November 20
Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel
5 Avenue of the Arts [120 Francis St., if using GPS]
Meeting room: The Handel Room, Temple Level
- Two survivors of sexual abuse by RI priests, including the New England spokesperson for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
- A leader of a national Catholic abuse research group based in MA
On Wednesday 11/19, a RI TV station made public a collection of 45 confidential sex abuse reports from the Providence diocese to the RI State Police. The letters were posted tonight on the website of WJAR-TV (Ch. 10 - NBC), which had obtained them from the State Police by filing a public records request. All 45 letters are signed by diocesan official Robert N. McCarthy, a retired state police lieutenant. Since 1992, McCarthy has handled all sex abuse allegations against Providence priests. See:
At the news conference, the survivors and researchers will point to letters that raise disturbing questions about three recent cases:
1. In a January 8, 2013 letter, McCarthy recounts confronting an active pastor about sexual misconduct allegations by three complainants. Two were age 16 and one was 18 when the alleged abuse occurred. McCarthy refers to an investigation he had conducted involving the priest and one of the complainants during a previous winter. Did that previous investigation concern possible sexual misconduct? Why wasn't the priest removed from ministry then?
On January 13, 2013, the Providence diocese announced the removal of Rev. Barry Meehan, pastor of St. Timothy's Church in Warwick RI, because of “a credible allegation of sexual misconduct that allegedly took place more than 25 years ago.” See:
Is Rev. Meehan the active pastor described by McCarthy in the January 8, 2013 letter? If so, why did the diocese tell the public that Meehan had only one alleged victim, when the letter indicates he was accused by three? And why did the diocese's announcement about Meehan refer only to a recent allegation and not the situation that McCarthy had investigated in a previous winter?
If the January 8, 2013 letter refers to a different priest, who is he? And if the diocese has removed him, why hasn't that been announced?
2. An April 17, 2012 letter reports allegations of child molestation by two brothers against a priest who appears to be running a RI parish today. Did the diocese or State Police investigate the allegations? On what basis did the diocese decide to retain the priest?
3. In a May 9, 2011 letter about possible recent sexual abuse of a female parishioner by an active Providence priest, McCarthy cites three previous reports about the priest, including a 1994 warning and a 2002 allegation that he had molested two high school girls. Given repeated signs that the priest was dangerous, why did the diocese allow him to stay in ministry for years? Who is he, and is he still active today?
Although the State Police redacted from the letters the names of priests, parishes, towns and dates, they did not black out the dioceses's file numbers, which suggest an “astonishingly high number” of complaints, according to Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a MA-based research group that has studied the abuse crisis since 2003.
The gaps in the file numbers point to the fact that an “enormous number of abuse reports is missing from this collection,” says attorney Helen McGonigle. McGonigle was raped as a six-year-old in East Greenwich RI by the Rev. Brendan Smyth. She reported her abuse to the diocese in 2006 but no letter about her abuse is included in the new release.
As a measure of what is missing, the RI letters can be compared to a similar release of public records in New Hampshire. In 2009, the NH Attorney General's office made public all the abuse reports it had received since 2003 from the Manchester NH diocese, which is smaller than Providence. The release included more than 125 complaints - and the AG chose to keep the names of most accused priests visible. In contrast, the reports to the State Police from the Providence diocese during the same period – 2003 to 2009 – total only 8. Where are the missing reports? See the Catholic abuse records released by the NH AG:
Finally, the letters reveal McCarthy's "profound lack of respect for victims," says Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, a licensed psychologist in RI and MA. Webb was sexually assaulted beginning at age five by Msgr. Anthony DeAngelis in West Warwick RI. In many of the letters, McCarthy provides gratuitous details about a victim's unemployment, addictions or use of medication. These details seem intended to undermine the credibility of the complainant, Webb says.
For these four reasons - 1) the diocese's persistence in keeping accused priests in ministry; 2) its high number of complaints; 3) the fact that they may have withheld many reports to the State Police; and 4) the disregard shown by its intake official for the truthfulness of victims - the state Attorney General and the US Attorney for Rhode Island must investigate the Providence diocese, the survivors and research group believe.
Common sense suggests that this diocese requires oversight, says Doyle. "Providence church officials are still taking chances with priests who have been reported for abuse. They are secretive and unaccountable. Rhode Island prosecutors should step in and investigate, as prosecutors have done in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania. The safety of children demands it."
Founded in 2003, BishopAccountability.org is the world's largest public library of documents related to the abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims' advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims' organization.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988, is based in Chicago and has more than 12,000 members in 65 nations (but we have heard from victims in more than 100 countries). Despite the word “priest” in our title, we help people who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org.
Anne Barrett Doyle, BishopAccountability.org, email@example.com, 781-439-5208 cell
Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, RI Abuse Survivor & Spokesperson for SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-513-8442 cell
Helen McGonigle, Attorney and RI Abuse Survivor, 203-300-2107 cell
Terence McKiernan, BishopAccountability.org, email@example.com, 508-479-9304