R.I. Judge Hears Arguments over Whether Diocese Can Be Sued As ‘perpetrator’ of Abuse

By Brian Amaral
Providence Journal
September 30, 2020

When Rhode Island lawmakers in 2019 extended the deadline to file lawsuits over childhood sexual abuse, they said victims could sue even if the clock had already run out under the old law — so long as the victims were suing a “perpetrator.”

What is a “perpetrator”? A state Superior Court judge on Wednesday heard more than an hour of arguments on that issue from three priest abuse victims, who say the leaders of the Catholic Diocese of Providence could be considered “perpetrators” under the new law even if they didn’t physically carry out the abuse; and from the diocese, which said they cannot.

“The General Assembly does not want the court to go down the rabbit hole that’s laid out in page after page of the plaintiffs’ brief,” Howard Merten, an attorney for the diocese’s leaders, told Superior Court Judge Netti C. Vogel in a remote hearing broadcast live on YouTube.

The arguments looked back on some of the darkest chapters in the history of the Providence Diocese. The outcome will determine if that history will continue to be litigated in court: The diocese says the suits, filed by three men who said they were abused as boys by different Rhode Island priests, should be dismissed.

The alleged victims, on the other hand, say the case should go to a jury to decide.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.