Love in the Rectory' TV Report Outrages Bishop

By Ken Ross
United Press International
November 15, 1990

Rhode Island's Catholic leader blasted a local TV station for its recent news series on "Love in the Rectory" and announced to parishioners he has canceled telecasts of Thanksgiving and Christmas masses on the station.

In a letter to be published in the Diocese of Providence's newspaper Thursday, Bishop Louis E. Gelineau said he was "outraged" by the "cavalier treatment given to the Catholic faith and the Catholics of Rhode Island" in the series, which aired on WPRI-TV, East Providence, on Nov. 7, 8 and 9.

About 65 percent of Rhode Island's more than 900,000 residents are Catholic -- the highest percentage in the United States.

Gelineau said that as a "first step" he "must cancel all arrangements for the production and telecast" of the masses, though he recognized the inconvenience it may cause Catholic viewers. He did not say what his next steps, if any, might be.

"In conscience, I cannot ignore what has happened," said the letter, which was published in the Providence Visitor and sent last week to Robert Finke, vice president and general manager of WPRI.

"It's their prerogative," Finke said. "I feel bad they canceled it. I think it served a need and I feel bad they felt a need to do that."

"Love in the Rectory" began by stating that, since 1984, several Rhode Island priests had been accused of sexual assault. It went into detail on two cases in particular.

One involved the Rev. William O'Connell, a pastor at St. Mary's in Bristol who was convicted of molesting boys in the parish and sentenced to a year in jail. The other focused on a former chaplain at Rhode Island College, the Rev. Robert Marcantonio, who is accused of sexually assaulting a young teenage boy while a graduate student at Iowa State University.

Marcantonio's alleged victim graphically recounted the sexual acts he says he and Marcantonio engaged in.

The series also included a study by a psychotherapist and former priest on the frequency with which priests break their vow of celibacy.

Gelineau said he was most offended by the station showing the sacrament of the Eucharist -- during which Catholics believe bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ -- while discussing the subjects of pedophilia and celibacy.

"Using the Eucharist as a backdrop for the distasteful commentary of this segment is an insult to faithful Catholics everywhere," the letter said. "It is little wonder then that our phones have not stopped ringing with calls from those offended by such insensitivity."

Gelineau acknowledged that some priests fail to remain celibate and that there are a few who are guilty of pedophilia. But he insisted there are "many more teachers, child care providers and parents, for example, who molest young children."


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