Open Government Group Raises Concern over Neronha’s Agreement with Providence Diocese

By Katherine Gregg
Providence Journal
July 30, 2019

A freedom-of-information coalition in Rhode Island is raising red flags over the “blanket” secrecy Attorney General Peter Neronha promised the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence in a “memorandum of understanding” aimed at gaining access to diocesan records dating back to 1950 of alleged child sex abuse by clergy.

“Troubling precedent,? wrote Linda Lotridge Levin, the retired University of Rhode Island journalism professor who is president of Access/RI, a coalition that counts, among its board members, representatives of the Rhode Island affiliate of the ACLU, Common Cause Rhode Island, the League of Women Voters of Rhode Island and the New England First Amendment Coalition.

Levin acknowledged, in her Monday letter to Neronha, that his “goal in entering [into] this MOU, as opposed to convening a grand jury, is to allow you to be more transparent with the public about your findings by eschewing the broad secrecy requirements that would enshroud grand jury proceedings.”

Unable to convince Rhode Island lawmakers to give a grand jury here the power a Pennsylvania grand jury had when it exposed decades of clergy abuse and coverups, Neronha went this route: voluntary disclosure by the diocese.

The review, in conjunction with the Rhode Island State Police, is meant to identify any prosecutable cases and make sure that no credibly accused clergy members are in active ministry, according to an earlier statement from the attorney general’s office.

“We greatly appreciate that and applaud your goal,” Levin wrote. “At the same time, we fear language in the MOU may establish a precedent that is itself problematic.”








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