A Bristol photographer reported his sexual abuse. His priest didn’t make the list of the ‘credibly accused.’

By Katherine Gregg
Providence Journal
July 3, 2019

“My report was less than credible?”

That was Bristol photographer Stephan Brigidi’s reaction to a glaring omission, to him, on the list of “credibly accused” priests that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence posted on its website on Monday.

The name that was missing was the name of the “inebriated” priest at St. Agnes parish in Providence who, he told the diocese, had fondled his genitals and attempted to kiss him when he was a 14- or 15-year-old altar boy, in a devout Catholic family, in the mid-1960s.

Brigidi, now 68 years old, said he had not felt compelled to file a complaint until he saw a quarter-page ad the diocese placed in The Providence Journal last Nov. 29 that said, in part:

“The Diocese urges anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse, or with credible knowledge of such abuse, by any member of the Catholic Church, to report allegations to RI State Police, local law enforcement, the RI Attorney General’s Office, and Kevin O’Brien, Director, Diocesan Office of Compliance.”

The ad ran in the aftermath of an explosive grand jury report out of Pennsylvania on hundreds of hidden victims of clergy abuse over decades that was prompting other dioceses across the country to go public with their own lists.

Brigidi told The Journal that he called, made an appointment to visit O’Brien at a diocesan office in Cranston in mid-January, and then told his story for the first time to someone outside his own circle of friends.

“I came forward only because there was an invitation to do so. My real concern ... were others in the parish, altar boys or no, attacked by this man.

“When I asked Kevin O’Brien, the compliance officer, has anyone [else] ever reported this man, he said: ‘No. This is the first we’ve ever heard of it.’”

The short version: An older altar boy was driving Brigidi and the now-deceased priest — the Rev. Norman LeBoeuf — back from a wedding reception at the Biltmore for a couple that included the woman (“Betty”) who taught catechism in their parish.

They were sitting three abreast in a Chrysler, with the older altar boy at one end behind the wheel, the priest at the other end. He said he was squeezed into the middle when the priest began “freely fondling me, in my groin area, over my pants. He was persistent.”

And “there was a witness,″ said Brigidi, who readily recalled the name of the other boy, who has not yet responded to Journal attempts to reach him.

Later that same day, Brigidi said, the priest called, apologizing profusely and begging him to come over to his parish house so he could apologize face to face. Brigidi said he “went over reluctantly,” feeling “compelled” because of the stature and “authority” a priest had in their community, and as soon as he got there, the priest “started to rant and rave about how outrageous his conduct was and he was all apologetic. He told me he had phoned [the older altar boy] and apologized to him and he said, I just feel so terrible, ‘Let me just give you a kiss goodbye.’”

“And I thought maybe he was going to kiss me on the cheek, but he pulled me close to him and put his lips on mine and I had to fight him off. That’s when I just bolted.”

“I never told my parents. I don’t know if they would have believed me or not. I really don’t know. I was pushed through the Catholic school system, including the Christian Brothers of La Salle, and my father’s attitude was ... ‘If you come home and you tell me you got hit, I’ll know you deserved it.’

“He was so diehard like that, and the Catholic Church was the Supreme Authority.”

After finally reporting what happened to the diocese, Brigidi said he was “dismayed” to see the ″abbreviated list” of credibly accused priests the diocese published, “knowing my own situation ... I followed the lead that was published in the paper last fall, saying if anyone has been a victim ... come forward ... so I did.”

“I was really dismayed, too, to see how these things were qualified in the list as ‘credible’ reportings. Is there an insinuation because there is an omission that my report was less than credible?

“I identified a witness to the incident and I seriously doubt if he ever followed up and tried to find that person.”

Asked why the diocese did not include LeBoeuf’s name on the list of “credibly accused” priests, diocesan spokeswoman Carolyn Cronin told The Journal: “Beyond the extensive information which was already released, the Diocese will have no further information or comment at this time.” She would not disclose his assignments in Rhode Island, or when he retired from the ministry.

Brigidi’s name has been redacted in the copy of a report, provided to The Journal, that the diocese made to the state police on Jan. 22, 2019. But all relevant details match the account he gave The Journal, adding only the year the priest died — 1984 — when he was the pastor emeritus of St. Edward’s Church, Pawtucket.

His obituary reflected earlier stints at Sacred Heart Church, Pawtucket; Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Warwick Neck; St. Michael’s Church, Providence; and St. Agnes Church, Providence. He was also director of the Pawtucket Public Library for many years, and director of the Diocesan Priest Choir from 1950 to 1969.

The state police closed out the case on April 16 with a report that ended as most of the redacted reports provided to The Journal for 2018-19 did:

“Due to the statute of limitations coupled with the fact that Fr. [blank] has passed away, the State Police will not be able to pursue this matter further .... Investigation closed at this time.”



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