Diocese rescinds appointment of Father Eric Silva to Narragansett amid controversy

Providence Journal [Providence RI]

August 5, 2022

By Antonia Noori Farzan

priest who had been placed on leave after parents raised concerns won’t be reassigned to a parish in Narragansett after all.

The Diocese of Providence said in news release on Friday that Bishop Thomas J. Tobin had rescinded Father Eric Silva’s appointment as assistant pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Narragansett. 

The move came at the request of Silva himself, and Father Marcel Taillon, the pastor at St. Thomas More, the diocese said. 

“It is with a heavy heart that I realize my presence there will only hurt the parish and cause division amongst the good people of God,” Silva said in his written request to Tobin, according to the diocese. 

Silva previously served as assistant pastor for St. Luke’s Parish in Barrington, but was put on leave in February. A parent at a Catholic school in Cranston where he had served as a visiting priest alleged that he had asked inappropriate questions to students during confession – asking whether they were gay or sexually active – and accusing them of lying.

“While Father Silva retains the priestly faculties of the Diocese of Providence, he will not be receiving a new assignment at the present time,” the diocese said on Friday.

Silva’s reassignment drew protests

Silva was scheduled to begin his new role at St. Thomas More on Aug. 15, a move that drew protests from victims of clergy sexual abuse. 

Silva has not been accused of sexual abuse, but the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said that asking inappropriate questions of children “reeks of grooming patterns.” 

Previous coverage: Priest accused of asking inappropriate questions has new post at Narragansett parish

A protest against Silva’s appointment was scheduled to take place outside the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Less than an hour beforehand, the diocese announced that his appointment had been rescinded.

Advocates say that they still want to see more accountability — specifically, an investigation of Silva.

“To obtain the truth, Bishop Tobin has a moral responsibility to refer the actions of Fr. Eric Silva to the police for an investigation even though Bishop Tobin has rescinded the assignment of Fr. Eric Silva,” said lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who represents survivors of child sexual abuse and was played by Stanley Tucci in the movie “Spotlight.” 

“We are very concerned that Bishop Tobin has chosen to keep Fr. Eric Silva’s priestly faculties in place,” Terence McKiernan, the president of BishopAccountability.org, said in a statement. “Those faculties should be immediately suspended, pending a full and open investigation of the allegations against Silva. Sexual interrogation of children in confession is closely associated with sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and for this reason is not allowed.”