Smithfield priest accused of sexual abuse placed on administrative leave

WPRI-TV, CBS-12 [Providence RI]

February 3, 2022

By Sarah Doiron

A Smithfield priest has been placed on administrative leave as the Diocese of Providence investigates an alleged sexual abuse that reportedly happened four decades ago.

Rev. Francis Santilli was ordained as a priest in 1980 and has been a pastor at St. Philip Parish since July 2010.

The specifics surrounding the alleged sexual assault have not been made public, though the Diocese did confirm that the victim was a minor at the time.

Santilli has been ordered by the Diocese not to “exercise public ministry or reside on church property” pending the outcome of the investigation.

“Allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, even if they occurred decades ago, always must be taken seriously,” Bishop Thomas Tobin said. “I will be praying for all who are involved and affected by this difficult news.”

The Diocese has confirmed that Tobin has accepted Santilli’s resignation as pastor of St. Philip Parish. He has also selected assistant pastor Rev. Phillip Dufor to lead the parish for the time being.

The R.I. Attorney General’s Office tells 12 News criminal prosecution “is not possible” because the statute of limitations has expired, but is grateful that the Diocese immediately removed Santilli from his position.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a church employee or volunteer is urged to contact the Diocese of Providence’s Office of Compliance by calling (401) 941-0760 or emailing