NBC 10 I-team: Former Woonsocket Priest Charged Amid Review of Diocese Records
WJAR 10 NBC
November 5, 2020
The Rhode Island Attorney General's Office has been examining records handed over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence for close to 18 months, and the first criminal charges in connection with that review came on Thursday.
A grand jury indicted John Petrocelli, a former Woonsocket priest, on charges of abusing three boys under the age of 14 between 1981 and 1990. He was charged with three counts of first-degree child molestation and nine counts of second-degree child molestation.
Petrocelli entered a not guilty plea and bail was set at $50,000 with surety. He was ordered to have no contact with the three alleged victims or any children under 16.
Petrocelli had served as an assistant pastor at Holy Family Church in Woonsocket, but was on the diocese's List of Credibly Accused Clergy and is no longer working as a priest. The diocese said Petrocelli was removed from the ministry in 2002 because of "credible allegations of abuse."
While the case is the first connected to the attorney generalís review of church records, it may not be the last.
"We have every piece of information that was given to law enforcement in the past. We're also looking at records we've received directly from the diocese. That's going to give us insight as to how we got to where we are today. It's also going to give us the ability, I think, in some instances, to make criminal cases," Attorney General Peter Neronha told NBC 10 News.
Neronha said he wants to review all allegations, even if the clergy member involved has since died. A hotline for victims has been set up with support from Day One at 401-421-4100, ext. 444.
The Diocese of Providence said anyone who has been abused or knows of abuse should report it to the Rhode Island State Police Major Crimes Unit at 401-444-1000, the Rhode Island Attorney Generalís Office at 401-274-4400 or the diocesan Office of Compliance at 401-941-0760.