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

Providence Journal [Providence RI]

August 2, 2022

By Antonia Noori Farzan

A priest who was accused of posing inappropriate questions to children at a Barrington parish has a new position in Narragansett.

Effective Aug. 15, Father Eric Silva will become assistant pastor at Saint Thomas More in Narragansett, a spokesman for the Diocese of Providence confirmed.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) alerted media outlets on Monday that Silva was “back on the job” and said the move raised serious concerns. 

SNAP concerns about placing suspended priests back into parishes

“Countless times in the past, Catholic officials have placed suspended priests back into parishes, only later having to remove them again when additional accusations are reported,” the Chicago-based advocacy group said in a news release. “We are concerned that this history could repeat itself in the Diocese of Providence.”

Fr. Eric Silva placed on leave in Barrington

Silva previously served as assistant pastor for St. Luke’s Parish in Barrington. In February, an unnamed parent at a Catholic school in Cranston where Silva was a visiting priest told Channel 10 that he had asked male students if they were gay and female students if they were sexually active. In both cases, students were told that they were lying if they said no, the parent alleged.

Silva was placed on leave after the allegations surfaced. At the time, the diocese said parents in both Cranston and Barrington had raised concerns. 

“We are fully aware that there was no allegation of sexual abuse against Fr. Silva, [but] we do know that these probing words by a cleric, to any child or adult, reeks of grooming patterns,” SNAP said in a statement.

Michael F. Kieloch, spokesman for the Diocese of Providence, said in an email that Silva had “accepted temporary administrative leave which afforded him time for pastoral study and reflection.” 

“It was always intended to be a temporary leave,” Kieloch wrote. “Upon completing the additional formation asked of him, Fr. Silva was given permission to return to active ministry in July and has been assisting at parishes around the diocese. He is now prepared for a more stable assignment and will become assistant pastor at Saint Thomas More in Narragansett effective August 15.”

The Narragansett parish, which includes St. Thomas More Church and the St. Veronica Chapel, referred questions to the Diocese of Providence on Monday.

Statement from Bishop Tobin

“Father Eric Silva is a fine priest, and I am confident that he will serve his parish community very well,” Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said in a statement released by the Diocese. “Father Silva has done everything we have asked him to do, I trust him completely, and it’s time for him to get back to work.”

SNAP noted that “Fr. Eric” is listed on the parish’s Mass schedules, while other priests are referred to by their last names.