The Survivor's Voice
Speech for Providence, RI Solidarity March
By Ann Hagan Webb
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
March 16, 2003
My name is Ann Hagan Webb. Although I live in Massachusetts today, I grew up in R.I. In 1957 my parents enrolled me in kindergarten at Sacred Heart School in West Warwick. In 1966 I was a member of the first graduating class of Sacred Heart School.
My parents were very proud on my graduation. I had had spotless grades, and had clearly enjoyed favor among the priests and nuns. They thought I was singled out because I was special, always being the child chosen to crown the blessed mother in May, to star in the school play, to be an angel at first communion, and called on by name to answer questions during the children's mass. They never knew that during most of those years I was being sexually abused by our pastor, Monsignor Anthony DeAngelis. I never told them. You see, one of the other ways I was singled out was to be called over to the rectory to "help out at the office." I don't remember stuffing many envelopes. I will not horrify you with what I do remember.
In 1994 I went to the Diocese Office for Education and Compliance, and met with Robert McCarthy, the Diocese Coordinator for Sexual Concerns. I wrote to Bishop Gelineau. I told the pastor at Sacred Heart. My father called the chancery. I was looking for a pastoral response, and financial help with my therapy - nothing more. Robert McCarthy told me he was so bombarded with calls from victims that my case was not a priority since Anthony DeAngelis was dead. Who were all those victims making all those calls?
No pastoral response came, and financial help with my therapy came only after more than 2 years of fighting for it. The diocese finally agreed to pay the copay of my therapy, on the last day before my statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit would have run out. They agreed only if I signed a paper saying I would never ask for any more money, essentially, never sue. I signed, but I refused to sign a gag order.
You will not find Anthony DeAngelis's name on the New York Times list of perpetrator priests, or on the Survivor's First priest database, because the Diocese of Providence does not want you to know about him or the many other priests who have abused children and vulnerable adults in this state. That information is in their files, which they won't release.
The Diocese of Providence was ordered by a R.I. judge to release those files last year. To avoid this, they finally made the $14 million dollar settlement you read about in the paper. After almost 10 years of brutal legal fighting they were willing to pay $14M to continue to keep their secrets.
The American Conference of Bishops has promised transparency in the interest of healing the wounds of the victims and the church. The leaders of two national lay boards appointed by the American Bishops to oversee this, Governor Frank Keating, and Kathleen McChesney (formerly of the FBI) have repeatedly called for transparency. Transparency means letting the public know the truth. Why is this not happening here?
Many of us did not file law suits. By not suing our abuse escaped the public's awareness. But our abuse was just as real, just as devestating.
The citizens of Rhode Island deserve to know the truth about the clergy here. The Catholic Laity in Rhode Island deserves to know the truth. It was not only 15 priests and 39 victims - case closed. The victims who you have read about were the brave ones who had the fortitude to fight a legal battle for justice for 10 years. The Providence Diocese Needs to open its records.
I am here today after almost daily changing my mind about coming. I have spoken out countless times in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and even Washington D.C. as the New England Co-coordinator of SNAP, the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests. Speaking out in R.I. is different. It terrifies me. My family is here. As a child I came to this cathedral in a white dress, as the Sacred Heart School representative, to be present as my perpetrator, Anthony DeAngelis was made a monsignor. I had to bring a carnation to the alter to honor him. No one knew how he was dishonoring me.
I speak out today, in this place that triggers memories I'd rather forget, in the hope that it will help others come forward who have been silent. They need not put their names in the paper or file a lawsuit. But maybe they can reach out to another survivor and no longer be alone.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.