R.I. Catholic Diocese is asked: Where are the names of the other accused priests?

By Katherine Gregg
Providence Journal
July 02, 2019

The diocese on Monday did not include the names of at least 45 priests accused of sexual assault in Rhode Island.

PROVIDENCE — “Where are the rest?”

That was the question priest-abuse victim Ann Hagan Webb posed Monday after looking at the 50 names on the list of accused pedophiles the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence made public that day.

A warrior in the successful fight to give Rhode Island’s sexual-abuse victims more time to sue, Webb knew the page number of the filing in a case titled “Young V. Gelineau” where the diocese told a court that the accusations in its files against “90-plus priests over a 35-year-period” would fill “100,000 to 130,000 pages of documents.”

The lawyers representing Bishop Thomas J. Tobin were seeking to convince the Rhode Island Supreme Court to relieve them of having to produce the “77-78 linear feet of documents” that Christopher Young’s lawyers were seeking “in the hopes of finding evidence of ‘cover-ups’ of alleged priest misconduct.”

In making the case why this would be hugely burdensome, the lawyers representing the bishop told the court: “The number of priests referenced in one way or another in the Diocese files was approximately 125,” but the number had since been “reduced to 95 by excluding priests who were not alleged to have committed sexual assaults.”

The math: The diocese on Monday did not include the names of at least 45 priests known to have been accused of sexual assault in Rhode Island.

Asked Tuesday why the Diocese did not name the 45 on the list of “credibly accused” priests, deacons and clergy the diocese published on its website Monday morning, spokeswoman Carolyn Cronin said: “In all prior instances where the Diocese has compiled lists of accused priests, it did so without regard to any assessment of credibility.”

She said this was so when the diocese voluntarily participated in a 2004 John Jay College of Criminal Justice study of the causes and contexts of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and in civil litigation. “In those cases,” she said, “the courts entered protective orders that limited the disclosure of details regarding unproven accusations.”

“Only after a determination has been made ... that the accusations against that person were credible” were names included on the list the diocese made public, she said.

But lawyer Timothy Conlon, who by his estimate has represented 60 clergy-abuse victims — including the victim in the Young v. Gelineau case — says the list published by the diocese “brings you to the multimillion-dollar question, which is exactly who is it that determines the term ‘credible’? And the only entity that has weighed in on that little judgment is the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.”

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “It is rather gross hubris to assume that because they determined that those were the credible ones, that’s the end of it.”

Conlon said he is cross-referencing the dates the diocese says accused priests were removed from the ministry against the dates the diocese denied knowledge of any accusations against the priests who figured in abuse cases he handled.

“Given that they are the ones who appointed themselves judge and jury ... it hardly should be shocking that the list is significantly smaller than one might have otherwise expected,” he said.

Asked this week if Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha is conducting his own probe of the allegations, including unredacted copies of the reports the diocese has made to the state police of accusations, his spokeswoman Kristy dosReis told The Providence Journal: “As stated previously, we are aware of allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and others, and are engaged in a review of those allegations.

“Many such allegations have been made to law enforcement by victims directly. We have also received previous disclosures from the Diocese. We will examine this list against those previous allegations and disclosures ... and will use whatever means necessary to obtain the information necessary to complete our review.”

The filing sprang from a lawsuit filed on March 13, 2003, by Conlon on behalf of Young, who alleged he was sexually abused in the 1980s by a priest at Holy Family Church in Woonsocket.

While the diocese in 2002 reached a $14-million settlement in 36 sexual-abuse lawsuits against parish priests, ending what was believed at the time to be the longest stretch of legal action over clergy misconduct in the United States, one case from the 1980s eluded settlement. That case involved involving former priest John Petrocelli, of Holy Family Church, one of the priests on the Diocese’s “credibly accused” list.

Young filed suit against Petrocelli and former Bishop Louis Gelineau on March 13, 2003, on the eve of his 24th birthday. He alleged that Petrocelli sexually abused him in a series of incidents that began when he was in elementary school and flunked his altar-boy test.

Young alleged that Petrocelli fondled him and forced him to shower naked with him after swimming.

As the case wound its way through the court systems, the lawyers for the diocese and Bishop Tobin argued that the statute of limitations had run out on Young’s claim, that he was not eligible for a monetary award, and that the suit should be dismissed. In the end, the case was settled under undisclosed terms.

Along the way, an exasperated Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel ordered the diocese to produce, with no more “gamesmanship,” much more information than it had regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against dozens of priests going back nearly four decades.

Previously, the judge had ordered the diocese to turn over any notice it had received of first- or second-degree child molestation or third-degree sexual assault dating back to 1971, and the church had turned over information on 83 priests.



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