Letter to editor: Did Bishop Tobin put children at risk?

Providence Journal [Providence RI]

February 10, 2022

By Anne Barrett Doyle

Last week’s news about an allegation against the Rev. Francis Santilli, the pastor of St. Philip Church in Smithfield, raises serious questions about the bishop’s handling of accused priests (‘Suspended Smithfield priest had faced previous allegations of sexual abuse,’ News, Feb. 4).

Bishop Tobin learned of two alleged victims of Father Santilli 10 years ago.

The bishop had a choice to make. Should he err on the side of protecting children and remove the priest? Or should he protect the priest’s reputation? Should he not breathe a word to the public, keep the priest in his post, and gamble that he wasn’t a child molester?

Bishop Tobin chose to protect the priest.

In 2014, he learned of a third Santilli accuser. Again, he had a choice, and once again, he chose to keep the priest in ministry. He said nothing to the public. The parishioners at St. Philip’s, and all the parents sending their young children to St. Philip School — they were all kept in the dark.

Now a fourth accuser of Santilli has come forward. This time, with the diocese under investigation by the AG’s office, Bishop Tobin finally did what he should have done 10 years ago. He removed Santilli from his post and notified the public.

Yet still, even now, the bishop deceives. His public announcement about Santilli’s suspension said nothing about the priest’s three prior accusers.

Bishop Tobin’s 10-year coverup of a multiply accused priest raises two troubling questions:

• Did the bishop’s secrecy endanger other children?

• How many other accused priests is he leaving in ministry?

Anne Barrett Doyle, Waltham, Mass.

The writer is co-director of BishopAccountability.org, an online library of data and documents pertaining to the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church.