Turning 90, former Bishop Gelineau says ‘God has been good to me’

Providence Journal

By Mark Patinkin
Journal Columnist

Posted Apr 28, 2018

Long-retired leader of Providence Diocese sits down to discuss his career, continued religious work, and the Church’s handling of a long-running sexual-abuse scandal.

Retired Bishop Louis Gelineau greeted me with a firm handshake while keeping his other hand on his walker.

I’d learned he turns 90 on Thursday, so I had come to see him at the Villa at St. Antoine in North Smithfield, the assisted-living facility that’s now his home.

I’d covered Gelineau a few times years ago and remembered his proper public persona. But I’d never sat with him and was struck by his openness, even about difficult matters like the church sex-abuse scandal. …

“We had parishes with two or three priests,” Gelineau said. “You don’t see that anymore.”

Then I asked about the impact of the church sex-abuse scandals.

“That was harmful to us, yes,” Gelineau said. “I was in office when that came to us.”

I reminded him the Providence Diocese in 2002 paid $14 million to settle dozens of cases, many from during his years, and lawyers claimed a pattern of covering up abuse.

“That was the whole question against Cardinal Law,” said Gelineau of the Boston bishop who resigned in 2002. “He had a lot going on and didn’t take the steps he should have.”

And Gelineau?

“As soon as I knew — we set up an office for handling that. And it’s still there to reveal the truth.”

Monsignor Frappier headed that committee and he said one of their first actions was hiring a retired Massachusetts state trooper to investigate by the book.

I pressed the bishop, pointing out that lawyers representing three men who sued for abuse claimed that documents show Gelineau transferred one accused priest to a new church where he abused again.

The bishop said the truth wasn’t clear at first.

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