5 File Suits Charging Sex Abuse by Priests; the Four Priests Have All Been Accused Previously of Sexual Abuse, and the Diocese Says They No Longer Have Contact with Children

By Doane Hulick
Providence Journal-Bulletin
March 18, 1994

Five Rhode Islanders yesterday filed lawsuits in Superior Court alleging they were sexually abused as children by four Roman Catholic priests and that members of the Church hierarchy participated in a coverup.

The plaintiffs, four men and a woman, also claim that the Diocese of Providence has refused to pay for therapy or otherwise compensate them.

Named as defendants are the Most Rev. Louis E. Gelineau, Bishop of Providence, Vermont Bishop Kenneth Angell, a former Providence auxiliary bishop, and Connecticut Bishop Daniel Reilly, a former chancellor of the Providence Diocese.

The priests accused in the suit are the Reverends James M. Silva, William O'Connell, Robert Marcantonio and Alfred Desrosiers, all of whom have been previously sued for alleged sexual abuse of children.

Frank Fitzpatrick, who started a network called Survivor Connections, said 23 suits alleging sexual abuse have been filed in Rhode Island against Roman Catholic priests.

Fitzpatrick said at a news conference yesterday that the suits were filed to force the Church to acknowledge what he called widespread sexual abuse by the clergy and to encourage other victims to come forward.

Meanwhile, William G. Halprin, spokesman for the Diocese of Providence, said, "Bishop Gelineau is already aware of past allegations against the four priests named in the lawsuits.

"As a result, all four priests have had their authority to perform priestly ministry suspended for quite some time."

Halprin also denied that the Church hierarchy had attempted to cover up sexual misconduct by priests and said that the diocese cooperates fully with state and local police.

He said the diocese takes every allegation seriously and each is thoroughly investigated by the diocese's education and compliance coordinator for sexual concerns, former Massachusetts State Police Lt. Robert McCarthy.

Halprin said Bishop Gelineau, McCarthy and William T. Murphy, the diocesan lawyer, were not aware that any counseling had been denied to the plaintiffs.

"Once again, Bishop Gelineau, Bishop Reilly and Bishop Angell deny knowingly placing anyone at risk by ignoring evidence of wrongdoing by any of the priests named," Halprin said.

"Bishop Gelineau remains committed to meeting with any alleged victims who ask that he do so. So far, none have taken him up on the offer. The diocese also remains committed to assisting victims of sexual abuse by anyone associated with the diocese in any reasonable way that we can," Halprin asserted.

One of the plaintiffs, Russell Cote, 21, of Burrillville, alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Father Silva in 1991 when the priest was assigned to Cote's parish to fill in for the vacationing pastor.

Cote, in a statement released yesterday afternoon, said he filed the suit "because I am disappointed and dismayed with the manner in which the Diocese of Providence has handled these matters, particularly over the course of the last year."

Anita R. Guilbault, 34, of Woonsocket, who spoke at the news conference, alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Father Desrosiers at St. Joan Church in Cumberland when she was 16. "Father Desrosiers used to take me to his room in the rectory, play soft music and remove my clothing. He would then hug, kiss and fondle my body. That happened several times a week for months . . .," she said.

David R. Wood, 35, a Little Compton firefighter, said he grew up in Tiverton, where he was a parishioner at St. Christopher Church. He alleged that he was sexually molested by Father Silva in the Catholic Youth Organization building on the church grounds during the winter of 1973-74, when he was 15.

Angelo Almonte III, 38, alleged that he was sexually molested when he was a young boy by Father Marcantonio in the rectory of St. Mary Church in Cranston.

Robert J. Crowley, 23, an insurance agent, alleged in his lawsuit that when he was 12 years old he was sexually molested by Father O'Connell, while O'Connell was assigned to St. Mary Church in Bristol.

The priests named in the suit could not be reached for comment.


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