I-team: Alleged Priest Victim Calls for More Transparency
By Katie Davis
November 29, 2013
An alleged victim of clergy sexual abuse is calling for more transparency from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence after an NBC 10 investigation.
The NBC 10 I-Team uncovered dozens of letters detailing abuse by Catholic priests in local churches going back decades.
A man who grew up in Rhode Island says he found his own case in those files. The letter is the most recent one the I-Team found in Rhode Island State Police files.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence sent it to detectives 10 months ago, but it details an alleged assault from 48 years earlier.
The alleged victim, Joe Corcoran, spoke publicly for the first time to NBC 10.
"It didn't get easier, like you would think, as time went by. The memories. It got harder," Corcoran said.
Corcoran grew up Warwick. As a high school student in the late 1960s, he worked at the Providence Visitor, the Catholic newspaper published by the Diocese of Providence.
It was one of the paper's editors, the Rev. John Ferry, who Corcoran said sexually assaulted him.
"People have asked me, would you rather have had that happen or gotten bitten by a shark? I'd rather have been bitten by a shark," Corcoran said.
Corcoran said the assault happened inside the Arcadia Management Area in Exeter, where Ferry took the teen for a picnic. He said the priest forced him to drink from a Thermos and the liquid inside left him drugged and unconscious.
"I passed out. I remember being on this blanket. He was having a picnic. The sky was twirling," Corcoran said. "Think back to when he dropped me off like a rag doll, semi-conscious."
"My father, when he got back later in the day, went to our parish with a baseball bat," he said. "Nobody reported it back then. It was part of the culture."
It's that culture Corcoran hopes to change.
His letter and more than 40 others were uncovered by the I-Team through a series of public records requests over a six-month period.
The documents were heavily redacted by state police. The names of priests, the dates of the abuse, churches, cities and towns -- all blacked out.
"I saw mine. I saw the redacting. I'm reading between the lines, and it's all about me," Corcoran said.
Corcoran showed the I-Team unredacted letters he received from the diocese that confirm that Ferry died in 1988.
"A lot of things that are blacked out I think should be told: the name of the priest, where this happened," Corcoran said.
"The church is still trying to protect its image. It's still trying to minimize its damages," said Bob Hoatson, a former Catholic priest.
Hoatson served as a Catholic priest in New Jersey until last year, when he voluntarily turned in his collar and began working full time for a victims' organization called Road to Recovery.
"The more the truth comes out, the more the church will be cleansed of this horror. And it will stop," Hoatson said.
Other dioceses across the country have publicly identified priests accused of sexual abuse, even those who are dead. Here in New England, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston posted a list of accused priests' names on its website.
But so far, the Diocese of Providence hasn't released its own list to the public.
"There's no reason why we can't know where Father X and Father Y served, and how many kids have made abuse claims from that parish or those parishes," Hoatson said.
In recent years the diocese has released the names of individual priests who were removed from ministry due to sexual abuse.
In 2012 and 2013, three priests were kicked out of Rhode Island parishes after victims came forward to report assaults that happened years earlier. In each case, the diocese alerted the media, as well as state police.
But how many total priests have been accused over the years remains secret, along with many of their names.
"The more information the better. This is 2013," Hoatson said.
The NBC 10 I-Team asked Bishop Thomas Tobin to explain the diocese's policies, but he declined to sit down for an interview.
A spokeswoman says the diocese is paying for Corcoran's counseling since he came forward this year. But the diocese wouldn't comment specifically on the allegations against Ferry or whether he was ever disciplined.
Corcoran said hopes to change the statute of limitations in Rhode Island, now as short as three years in some sexual abuse cases. He said he wants victims to have more time to file civil lawsuits or criminal charges if a priest is still alive.
"I think it should just be across the board, no statute of limitations on molestations," Corcoran said.
You can read all 45 of the letters the I-Team uncovered in state police files. Victims' names and identifying details are blacked out.