Attorney General Continues Review of Church Abuse Claims

By Jennifer McDermott
July 12, 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. (AP Photo/Stew Milne, File)

Rhode Island's attorney general said Friday that it will be several more months before he is finished reviewing allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the state.

Democrat Peter Neronha said he continues to review allegations of clergy sexual abuse to figure out what happened, what the response was and whether anyone can be held responsible.

Last week, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence released a list of 50 clerics, religious order priests and deacons it deems to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The diocese reviewed files dating to 1950.

The list posted on the diocese website includes 19 priests and deacons who are still alive, ranging in age from 60 to 98, although nearly all have been removed from ministry. One priest resigned. The list also includes 25 dead priests and six others, including religious order priests.

Rhode Island is one of the most heavily Catholic states. Bishop Thomas Tobin, in a letter accompanying the list, called its release "a difficult but necessary moment" in the history of the church.

Neronha, who launched his review shortly after taking office this year, said the diocese's list is a subset of the allegations. He's looking at all allegations, not just those deemed credible by the church, and reviewing disclosures made by the diocese to law enforcement, criminal and civil cases and complaints to police.

"I don't think this will be a quick enterprise. It's going to take time," he said in an interview Friday. "But I'm committed to doing it responsibly, thoroughly, and being as transparent as I can about whatever conclusions that we reach."

Neronha had asked the legislature to pass a bill to allow a grand jury to issue a report when a criminal indictment isn't returned, but it stalled this year. He plans to seek similar legislation next year. A grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania found hundreds of abusive priests in the state.








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