Letter to Bishop Thomas Tobin

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
August 23, 2011

Bishop Thomas Tobin

Diocese of Providence

One Cathedral Square

Providence, RI 02903

Dear Bishop Tobin:

We belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests ( Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.

We're concerned about three men who have faced criminal charges of sexual misdeeds and who have been or are Rhode Island Catholic clerics. Two are recently arrested deacons. One is a convicted and defrocked child molesting priest. They are:

Fr. Daniel M. Azzarone Jr., who now works at a Providence-based non-profit agency called Open Doors, which aims to support those who have been incarcerated.

Deacon Robert Alessio, who was arrested recently for indecent exposure.

Deacon Laurence Gagnon, who was arraigned recently for child molestation.

We want you, Bishop Tobin, to aggressively seek out and offer help and guidance to anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered their crimes. Specifically, we want you to use church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements to reach out to anyone who may have information or suspicions about these men. This is especially important with the deacons, so that the police will be able to conduct thorough investigations, learn the truth about the allegations against them, and prosecute them effectively if that's where the evidence leads.

All of us, as citizens, have a duty to help law enforcement. And you, as head of the diocese and ultimately the employer of these deacons, should be especially vigilant about maintaining a safe, transparent community where sexual criminals cannot hide or be around the vulnerable.

We are particularly worried about Azzarone. He's been convicted. He's been defrocked (and often, only the most egregious predator priests are formally defrocked). It's been years since public attention has been focused on his crimes. And we believe he's now among unsuspecting colleagues and neighbors and clients.

We don't oppose Azzarone having a job. We feel, however, that staff and clients at the agency should be told of his crimes and that everyone would be safer if he had a position that wasn't around people who are struggling, powerless and who, if exploited, have little credibility and few resources to rely on in a crisis). Convicted drunk drivers shouldn't drive school buses and convicted predators shouldn't be around vulnerable adults or kids.

We worry that Azzarone may still be molesting kids or exploiting vulnerable adults. For the sake of public safety, we want you to use your church websites, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to warn parents, parishioners and the public about him whereabouts and crimes. (We also want Open Doors officials to alert current and former staff and client about Azzarone's past.)

Please don't split hairs, parse words and make excuses. We know Azzarone's been defrocked. We know he's not on your payroll any more. We know you don't control him.

But we also know that you have the ability and, we believe, the responsibility, to warn others about him. It's simply irresponsible for Catholic officials to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, transfer and shield child molesting clerics, and then cut all ties with them, alerting no one to their criminal behavior.

Similarly, we ask that you don't split hairs, parse words and make excuses regarding the deacons. We know that neither of them have been convicted. We know that one of them isn't charged with hurting a child.

But we also know that you can make it harder or easier for police and prosecutors to do their jobs. We know that you can passively sit back and do little or nothing, or you can take active steps to help uncover the truth.

We ask you, in all three cases, to honor your pledges of "openness and transparency," put the safety of others ahead of all other considerations, and reach out to those who may be suffering and need comfort, those who may be vulnerable and need protection, and those who may have information but be reluctant to share it.

Paul Kellen

SNAP Boston

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

36 Woodside Road

Medford, MA 02155


David Clohessy

Executive Director, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

7234 Arsenal Street

St. Louis MO 63143


Barbara Dorris

Outreach Director, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

6245 Westminster Place

St. Louis MO 63130

314-862-7688, 314-503-0003

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.