Priest Barry Meehan Charged with Sexual Assault in Cranston and Providence in the 1980s and ’90s

By W. Zachary Malinowski
Providence Journal
November 22, 2014

[Sex-abuse cases involving Rhode Island priests]

Barry Meehan, 65, of Warwick, a retired Catholic priest, is arraigned at Superior Court, Providence, on Friday on five counts of first-degree sexual assault dating to the 1980s and the 1990s.

A priest was delivered to Superior Court in handcuffs on Friday and charged with five counts of first-degree sexual assault on two alleged victims in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Rev. Barry Meehan, 65, of 767 Providence St., West Warwick, former pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church, at 1799 Warwick Ave., in Warwick, pleaded not guilty to the charges through his defense lawyer, Kevin J. Bristow, of Providence.

The indictment spelling out the charges was unsealed at 12:07 p.m., in the courtroom of Magistrate Patricia Harwood. A clerk declined to release a copy of the indictment to The Providence Journal.

Meehan, an ordinary-looking man with thinning white hair and gold-rimmed glasses, wore a wool coat over a tan cable sweater and gray slacks. Outside the judge’s chambers, he signed several documents with his hands bound in handcuffs.

The statewide grand jury handed up the indictment against Meehan on Wednesday, and it remained sealed until his appearance in Superior Court. According to the indictment, while Meehan was assigned to St. Mary Parish in Cranston between April 17, 1986 and Jan. 25, 1991, he sexually assaulted a boy older than 14 years old. It is further alleged that on or about Jan. 25, 1991 and Aug. 31, 1992, he sexually assaulted another boy older than 14 when he was assigned to St. Augustine Parish in Providence.

One of the alleged victims reported the abuse to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in December 2012, and the church, in turn, contacted the state police. During the course of their investigation, the state police found a second alleged victim.

The diocese issued a statement on Friday afternoon stating that it removed Meehan from the priesthood, contacted the state police and reported his behavior to the Vatican.

“Bishop [Thomas J.] Tobin has asked that Father Meehan be permanently removed from the priesthood,” the diocese said in a statement. “Father Meehan’s canonical status is being examined, and the final disposition of this case will be determined by the Vatican.”

Assistant Attorney General Maureen Keough sought to have Meehan held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions, seeing that a conviction “carries with it a significant sentence.” She also asked Harwood to order Meehan to surrender his passport and have no contact with the victims or complaining witnesses.

Bristow countered that bail should be set because the sexual-assault allegations had been swirling around the retired priest for 2 ? years. He said that Meehan is a lifelong Rhode Island resident and has proven that he does not intend to flee. He said the alleged sexual assaults took place in 1986, 1991 and 1992.

Harwood set bail at $50,000 with surety, or $5,000 in cash.

In January 2013, Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans announced Meehan’s resignation from the church following “credible” allegations of sexual abuse. Reading a statement on behalf of Bishop Tobin, Bishop Evans said that Meehan “willingly offered his resignation to the diocese,” although he denied “any improper activity.”

Meehan was assigned to St. Timothy’s in 2002. He was ordained on June 10, 1978, and was at SS. Peter & Paul, in West Warwick, from 1978 to 1980; St. Mary in Cranston, from 1980 to 1991; St. Augustine in Providence, from 1991 to 1996; St. John the Baptist, in West Warwick, from 1996 2002; and also St. James, of West Warwick, from 2000 to 2002. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 11.

Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, recently sent a letter to The Providence Journal urging victims of clergy abuse to contact the state police.

“Every survivor I know who has gone to the RI State Police has said it was a positive experience,” she wrote. “The police officers (both male and female) understand how difficult it is for us to discuss our abuse. I found that the hardest part [was] walking through the door.”

Hagan Webb said she was abused by a priest when she was child. She said the priest has since died.









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