Barry Meehan, priest facing trial for sexual assault, dies

By Karen Lee Ziner
Providence Journal
December 27, 2016

WEST WARWICK, R.I. - Barry M. Meehan, a former Roman Catholic priest who was facing trial for sexual assault, died on Dec. 8, according to an obituary printed Tuesday in The Providence Journal.

Meehan died of myocardial infarction (a heart attack), according to the medical examiner's office.

Meehan, 67, was permanently removed from the priesthood in 2015. He had lived in West Warwick.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence had no comment Tuesday, said spokeswoman Carolyn E. Cronin.

Amy Kempe, spokeswoman for R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, said: "At the next scheduled court date, which is January 4, the state will dismiss the charges, obviously because the defendant is deceased."

Kempe added, "The attorney general's office was prepared to proceed to trial to prove that the defendant in fact had sexually assaulted two individuals."

Meehan resigned as pastor of St. Timothy's Parish in Warwick in January 2013, when the diocese announced "credible" allegations of sexual misconduct against him, dating back at least 25 years. Meehan denied "any improper activity," according to a statement at that time from Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin.

Meehan was placed on administrative leave, removed from active ministry, and his behavior was reported to the Vatican with Tobin's recommendation that he be permanently removed from the priesthood.

A subsequent state police investigation led to Meehan's arrest and indictment in November 2014 on five charges of felony sexual assault in the first degree, involving two alleged victims. The allegations dated to the 1980s and early 1990s. Meehan pleaded not guilty, was released on bail and ordered not to contact the alleged victims.

Last month, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence (a corporation) lost its fight to quash "renewed subpoenas" for certain records and documents beyond those previously produced, according to court records. Superior Court Justice Sarah Taft-Carter denied the motion on Nov. 3, and ordered that the documents be produced.

The Vatican laicized Meehan in 2015, meaning he was permanently removed from "the clerical state," according to the Rev. Timothy D. Reilly, chancellor at the Diocese of Providence.

A priest who has been laicized can never again celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, preach sermons, be called "Father" or "Reverend", or dress like a priest. Laicization can only be imposed with the pope's permission, after a mandatory Vatican review, according to Reilly.

Meehan was one of five priests who have been relieved of their ministry since Tobin came to the diocese in 2005, according to Cronin, the spokeswoman. Meehan was the only one of the five to be laicized by the Vatican.

The others are Kevin R. Fisette (removed in August 2009); Timothy Gorton (removed April 2012); John Allard (removed February 2013) and Samuel Turillo (removed June 2016).

Meehan, ordained in 1978, served at five different parishes within the diocese as either an assistant pastor or pastor during his nearly 35 years in the ministry. He was assigned to St. Timothy's in 2002; and previously served at SS. Peter & Paul in West Warwick; St. Mary in Cranston; St. Augustine in Providence; St. John the Baptist in West Warwick; and St. James of West Warwick.



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