Survivors Label Providence Roman Catholic Diocese List of Credible Priest Abusers Incomplete

By Marilyn Schairer
July 1, 2019

In this May 9, 2002 file photo, Phyllis Hutnak, right, prepares to speak to the media outside the offices of the Diocese of Providence in Providence, R.I. Hutnak said she was seduced by the late Monsignor Louis Dunn of St. Thomas Church in Providence when she was a teenager. Dunn was listed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence on Monday, July 1, 2019, as one of several members of clergy, religious order priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. Dunn died in 2001.

Rhode Island survivors of clergy sex abuse are saying that the list of 50 clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse released Monday by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island is far from enough.

Psychologist Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, who is a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said she's certain the list is incomplete.

“It feels like damage control. It's a little bit too late, certainly,” she said. “This list is names they have known for a very long time. There are priests on there that have been moved around 15 times.”

Hagan Webb, who says she was molested by her parish priest in West Warwick, Rhode Island between the ages of 5 to 12, said she hopes the authorities step in and prosecute.

The Providence diocese posted on its diocese website 50 names of clergy, religious order priests and deacons that are “credibly” accused of sexual abuse. The published list includes 19 men who are still alive, although all have been removed from ministry. The diocese list also posts where each of those “credibly” accused men once worked.

SNAP said in a statement that it hopes the release of this information will lead to safer, more informed communities, and that survivors will be encouraged to come forward and make a report.

SNAP asked Bishop Thomas Tobin to update the list with the full work histories of each accused priest so communities where abusers served know, and called on Rhode Island's attorney general to independently investigate.

"While we are grateful for the bit of transparency shown by the Diocese of Providence today, we know that the best way to get full transparency and a true accounting of the problem is by relying on secular, independent officials," the statement said.

The attorney general's office is already reviewing allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and plans to cross-reference the list with previous allegations and disclosures, Attorney General Peter Neronha's spokeswoman, Kristy dosReis, said Monday.

"While release of this list is a step forward, we do not view it as the end of the process," she said in a statement.

Anne Barrett Doyle is with the Waltham-based group Barrett Doyle also said the list of published names is incomplete and is only a partial list of priests accused of sexual abuse.

Barrett Doyle said court documents show Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin admitted to learning of allegations against 125 accused priests between 1971 and 2006. She wants the diocese to be more forthcoming.

“Providence has long been one of the most secretive dioceses in the United States, largely because the statute of limitations in Rhode Island allowed the Bishop to keep total control of the diocese's dark secrets,” Barrett Doyle said.

Last Wednesday, the Rhode Island State legislature voted nearly unanimously to pass a bill that extends the statute of limitation for child survivors of sexual abuse to 35 years. On Monday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed that bill into law.

Becky Ianni of Burke, Virginia is a member of SNAP and has worked as an advocate for survivors in Rhode Island. In 2006, when Ianni was 48 years old, she came forward with her story of sexual abuse by a priest. She said shame and embarrassment stopped her from coming forward sooner. Ianni is also concerned about the list that the Providence diocese released, saying it doesn’t contain specific details.

“They have a bunch of priests that are still alive, that say they’re removed, but what does 'removed' mean?" Ianni said. “And where are those priests? And how can parents and the community take precautions to make sure kids are safe?”

Barrett Doyle said the diocese’s action to publish the list is a “nod toward transparency.” She said that so far, 133 dioceses out of 177 nationwide have released a list of what they term “credibly” accused priests of sexual assault against minors.

Hagan Webb counsels survivors and serves as an advocate for them. She said the law signed by Raimondo Monday is named after her and that her sister, Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, a Democrat from South Kingstown, sponsored the bill, which took two years to win approval.

Hagan Webb’s accused perpetrator is Monsignor Anthony DeAngelis, which the diocese list references as “publicly” accused clergy, instead of using the term “credibly” accused, since Webb’s allegations were made after DeAngelis' death in 1990.

Hagan Webb is hopeful Neuronha will criminally prosecute any priests who were accused in lawsuits against the diocese.

“The church is never going to do it,” Hagan Webb said. “It’s got to be the legal system.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.








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