Former RI Catholic priest indicted on child-molestation charges

Providence Journal [Providence RI]

November 9, 2021

By Tom Mooney

A grand jury has returned an 11-count indictment against former priest James Silva alleging he sexually assaulted a boy younger than 14 between 1989 and 1990 while an administrator in the Office of Ministerial Formation within the Diocese of Providence. 

Silva, now 81, faces two counts of first-degree child molestation and nine counts of second-degree child molestation. 

Silva was included in a list of credibly accused priests released by the diocese in 2019. 

For decades, starting in the 1960s, diocese officials transferred him around to a dozen different parishes around the state. Victims of clergy abuse and their lawyers have pointed to his career as an example of how diocese dereliction allowed a known pedophile to move from parish to parish preying on children. 

In the spring of 1980, for instance, one lawsuit says, then Bishop Louis Gelineau transferred Silva from St. Joseph’s in Burrillville after he allegedly molested several boys. Gelineau sent Silva to St. Lucy’s parish, in Middletown, without any warning of the previous allegations against Silva, the lawsuit claims. 

When a Navy Catholic priest informed Gelineau of Silva’s sexual advances on a boy at St. Lucy’s, the lawsuit says, Gelineau replied: “Oh, no. Not again!”

At least twice the diocese sent Silva away for treatment for pedophile priests, a lawsuit says. Sometime around 1983, after Silva had spent about a year in treatment, operators of the New Mexico treatment center, the “Servants of the Paraclete” warned a diocese official to “keep Silva away from youths,” the lawsuit alleges.

Silva previously pleaded guilty in 1995 in a separate case to one count of second-degree sexual assault and received a seven-year suspended sentence with probation. 

This is the third former priest that Attorney General Peter F. Neronha has brought charges against since his office gained access to diocese records in 2019 after reaching an agreement with church leaders. 

In November 2020, a  statewide grand jury returned an indictment charging former Woonsocket priest John Petrocelli with multiple counts of child molestation.  

And in May, former Smithfield priest Edward Kelley was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.