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Providence bishop deflects questions about administrator accused of abuse at Bristol church

Bishop Thomas Tobin in 2013.Gretchen Ertl

PROVIDENCE — In his first public remarks about a Globe investigation into a Bristol church administrator accused of sexually abusing boys, Bishop Thomas Tobin said repeatedly that he couldn’t “remember all the details” about the investigation his own office conducted.

Tobin spoke Friday on WPRI-TV’s “Newsmakers” program, where he was interviewed by reporters Tim White and Ted Nesi.

White questioned Tobin about how St. Mary’s Church in Bristol handled allegations against its administrator, David E. Barboza.

Tobin took a deep breath. “I can’t say too much about that because, frankly, I don’t remember all the details,” the bishop said.

It was a phrase Tobin repeated four more times over two minutes of conversation about what the church did and didn’t do about Barboza.


As the Globe reported in September, Barboza had been working for the church for about a year in 1998 when one of the parishioners told the Providence Diocese that Barboza had sexually assaulted him when he was a teenager in the 1970s.

Another man told an investigator for the Diocese that Barboza had molested him at a fire station in the 1970s. Barboza had also been charged with soliciting a teenage boy in 1982; the charge was later dismissed.

The diocese began an investigation in 1998. Then-Bishop Robert Mulvee was the first notified, and later Tobin was. The diocese told the Globe this year that it let the priest at St. Mary’s, the Reverend Barry Gamache, decide what to do about Barboza.

Gamache decided he believed Barboza over the alleged victims and the diocese investigator. Barboza resigned in July 2019, when the Globe reported that he was accused by at least three men of sexual misconduct when they were children.

Since then, other men have accused Barboza of sexual abuse. One, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, obtained a restraining order against Barboza, saying Barboza had threatened him for going to the police about alleged abuse.


Tobin spoke about recently visiting the church.

“I was there for Mass on Thanksgiving morning at St. Mary’s, and Father Barry [Gamache] is doing a great job. He’s well received, he’s beloved and the people are fine,” Tobin said. “They’re doing very well. It’s a beautiful parish, um, and whatever’s happening in the town, that’s somewhat beyond the scope of the church.”

White pushed back: “[That’s] just your categorization, I don’t know that everyone is fine in Bristol.”

Tobin said he was talking about his experience at the church that day.

Does the church owe the community an apology? White asked.

“Well, I think any time there is an expression or act of sexual abuse, we want to apologize and be very sorry for whatever part of that we may have played in it,” Tobin said.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.