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Ongoing coverage of the Catholic Church, misconduct, and abuse by clergy in Rhode Island

State prosecutors are conducting a review of more than 100,000 documents related to the sexual abuse of children that have been turned over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. Read Globe Rhode Island’s ongoing coverage of the Catholic Church, misconduct, and abuse by clergy.

The Diocese of Providence.Carlos R. Munoz / Globe Staff

Sept. 1, 2022

THE LATEST: For R.I. survivors of clergy abuse, first monthly support meeting from national network

A national self-help organization for victims of clergy sexual abuse is starting its first support group in Rhode Island.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, will hold its first monthly meeting for survivors and their loved ones on Tuesday. The new Rhode Island chapter is being co-led by two survivors of clergy abuse, who say they hope to help others by sharing their experiences.

“Most survivors feel very alone, and most of us in the beginning didn’t believe there were a lot of others out there,” said Dr. Ann Hagan Webb, a psychologist who treats other survivors. “There is still something so validating to hearing stories that are similar to yours, because other people get it.” Read more.

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Aug. 12, 2022

North Attleborough priest placed on administrative leave amid investigation

BOSTON — A North Attleborough, Mass., priest was placed on administrative leave last week amid an investigation into alleged misconduct, according to a statement from the Diocese of Fall River.

Reverend Rodney E. Thibault, pastor of Transfiguration of the Lord Parish and director of St. Mary–Sacred Heart School, was placed on leave by the bishop of the Fall River Diocese.

Thibault is being investigated for “alleged misconduct that is inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests in the Diocese of Fall River,” said the statement, which was dated Aug. 7. Read more.

Aug. 9, 2022

Commentary | The Catholic church must do more to address child sexual abuse by priests and offer reparations to survivors

By Lauren Micalizzi Brophy

A developmental psychologist who is married to a survivor of childhood sexual abuse warns of the long-term effects of adverse childhood events and trauma. Read more.

Aug. 8, 2022

Leader of St. Thomas More and St. Veronica parish apologizes for reassignment of priest, but questions remain

By Amanda Milkovits

The Rev. Eric Silva was removed from two churches for making inappropriate comments to children. Survivors of abuse by priests point out that a weekend apology “didn’t mention the safety of children, or children at all.” Read more.

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Ryan Brophy of Narragansett, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, stands outside the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence on Friday, protesting the handling of priests accused of sexual abuse.Christina Brophy

Commentary | Parishioners in R.I. deserve transparency about the removal of Catholic priest

By Stephen Brophy and Christina Brophy

The parents of child sexual abuse survivor Ryan Brophy say the church must disclose the background of the Rev. Eric Silva, who has been on leave for making inappropriate comments to children at two Catholic schools. Read more.

Aug. 5, 2022

Providence Diocese rescinds assignment of priest who made inappropriate comments to children

By Amanda Milkovits

NARRAGANSETT — After days of protests, the Diocese of Providence has rescinded the controversial assignment of a priest who had been on leave for making inappropriate comments to children at two Catholic schools during confession.

The Rev. Eric Silva was going to be the new assistant pastor at St. Thomas More Church in Narragansett starting Aug. 15. Silva had been on leave since February, after a principal at Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston barred him when parents complained he’d asked students about their sexual orientation and sexual activity. The diocese later said that there were complaints from St. Luke School in Barrington as well, and that Silva’s questions had been in the “context of the Sacrament of Penance.” Read more.

Aug. 3, 2022

Child sexual abuse survivor protests after reassignment of R.I. priest who made inappropriate comments to children

By Amanda Milkovits

Ryan Brophy, a father and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, felt he had to act when he learned the diocese had assigned the Rev. Eric Silva as assistant pastor at St. Thomas More Church. Read more.

03ripriestprotest - The Rev. Eric Silva introduces himself to parishioners at Mass on Sunday, July 31, at St. Veronica Catholic Chapel in Narragansett. (Screenshot of video at St. Veronica Catholic Chapel in Narragansett) Screenshot of video at St. Veronica Catholic Chapel in Narragansett

Aug. 2, 2022

Diocese assigns priest to Narragansett parish after placing him on leave over inappropriate comments to students

By Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE — A priest who was placed on leave earlier this year after complaints that he’d made inappropriate comments to students at two Catholic schools has been assigned to a parish in Narragansett.

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The Diocese of Providence has placed the Reverend Eric Silva as an assistant pastor at St. Thomas More Parish, effective Aug. 15, according to a July 14 notice about new assignments.

Silva had been on temporary administrative leave since February, after the principal of Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School in Cranston barred him when parents complained that he’d asked children about their sexual activity and orientation. Read more.

June 6, 2022

R.I. priest, removed from ministry in 2009, now indicted on a sexual assault charge

By Brian Amaral

PROVIDENCE — A priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence was indicted late last month on charges of sexually abusing a boy in the early 1980s, the state attorney general announced Monday.

Kevin Fisette, 66, who lives in Dayville, Conn., was indicted on one count of first-degree sexual assault. He’s set to be arraigned Wednesday in Providence County Superior Court, according to Attorney General Peter Neronha.

Fisette was one of the names included on the Diocese of Providence’s list of credibly accused clergy in 2019. He had been removed from ministry and resigned from his post as pastor of St. Leo the Great Church in Pawtucket in 2009 but never removed from the priesthood. His inclusion on the list sparked questions about the job he got after being removed from ministry at Goodwill in Rhode Island, which involved visits to schools and working in the presence of children. Read more.

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Feb. 4, 2022

Pastor of St. Philip Parish in Greenville, R.I., has faced previous abuse allegations

By Brian Amaral

PROVIDENCE — Advocates for victims of abuse by priests are accusing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and Bishop Thomas Tobin of a “cover-up” after a Smithfield priest was placed on administrative leave this week over a child sex abuse allegation dating to 40 years ago.

The Rev. Francis Santilli, pastor of St. Philip Parish in Greenville, won’t exercise public ministry or live on church property pending the outcome of an investigation, the diocese said Thursday. He also resigned as pastor of St. Philip Parish.

But it wasn’t the first time Santilli had been accused of child sexual abuse, according to the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests and BishopAccountability.org. In fact, according to those organizations, it was at least the third. Read more.

Feb. 3, 2022

Smithfield priest on leave after allegation of child sexual abuse

By Amanda Milkovits

Rev. Francis C. Santilli, the pastor of St. Philip Parish and St. Philip School, has resigned after an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that occurred about 40 years ago.

The Diocese of Providence announced Thursday that Santilli was placed on administrative leave and will not exercise public ministry or reside on church property pending the outcome of an investigation. The Diocese said it was cooperating with law enforcement and the attorney general’s office.

A person had recently contacted the attorney general’s office about the alleged abuse, which prompted an investigation involving the state police, said Blake Collins, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. The Diocese also forwarded a complaint at the same time, Collins said.

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The attorney general’s office determined that they could not prosecute criminally, because the statute of limitations has expired.

“Nevertheless, given the seriousness of the allegations, and the accused priest’s current duty assignment, we yesterday forwarded the information we had obtained to the Diocese, and asked the Diocese to advise this Office of the steps it intended to take in response,” Collins said in an email Thursday.

That led to the Diocese’s announcement that it was putting Santilli on leave.

The state police spokesperson, Major Laurie Ludovici, did not respond to a request for comment.

Santilli was ordained in 1980 and was assigned to the Saint Philip Parish in Greenville in July 2010. His previous assignments included serving as pastor of Saint Cecilia Church in Pawtucket and Saint Paul Church in Cranston. He also worked as an assistant pastor, hospital chaplain, associate director of vocations for the Diocese of Providence, spiritual director at Our Lady of Providence Seminary, and Catholic high school chaplain. He has also done missionary and retreat ministry in Vietnam.

The Rev. Philip J. Dufour, the assistant pastor, has been appointed as administrator pro tem of the parish.

“Allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, even if they occurred decades ago, always must be taken seriously,” Bishop Thomas Tobin said in a statement. “I will be praying for all who are involved and affected by this difficult news.”

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, responds to a question during an interview in his office, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Gretchen Ertl

July 28, 2021

A R.I. priest was charged with sexual assault, but the case remains in limbo

By Brian Amaral

PROVIDENCE — State authorities are quietly prosecuting a sexual assault case against a former Diocese of Providence priest.

Edward Kelley, 79, had relocated to South Carolina, where he was arrested in mid-May on a warrant out of Rhode Island, according to court records. He was later brought to Rhode Island, where he faces an indictment on three counts of first-degree sexual assault dating to 1983 in North Smithfield.

But Kelley, who served in at least four parishes in Rhode Island in the 1980s and 1990s, has yet to be arraigned. Read more.

March 1, 2021

R.I. lawmakers want to change deadline to sue over sexual abuse

PROVIDENCE — In 2019, Rhode Island gave victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits against their perpetrators, even if the abuse occurred decades ago.

But victims’ advocates say the state courts have too narrowly defined what a “perpetrator” is. So now some lawmakers are going back to the drawing board: They want people to be able to sue not just the person who actually committed the abuse, but the institutions that aided and abetted them, even if the deadline to do so had already run out under the old law.

This was their intention all along, and the new bill, introduced late last month, would make that perfectly clear, the lead sponsor said. The effort would expose the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence to more lawsuits and scrutiny over a dark chapter in the church’s history. Read more.

Oct. 20, 2020

Providence Bishop Tobin criticizes Pope Francis again, this time over same-sex civil unions

By Dan McGowan

PROVIDENCE — Hours after Pope Francis for the first time endorsed same-sex civil unions, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin called such relationships “objectively immoral” and said the Catholic church should not accept them. Read more.

The ceiling of the sanctuary at Sacred Heart Catholic Church is painted red with gold detail work along the edges in Peoria, Ill. Matt Dayhoff/Associated Press

July 10, 2020

After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4 billion in coronavirus aid

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The US Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.

The church’s haul may have reached -- or even exceeded -- $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the US government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found. Read more.

Feb. 28, 2020

An explosive new clergy abuse lawsuit is filed as the RI Attorney General reviews the Providence Diocese’s records

By Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE — As an explosive allegation of clergy sexual abuse in Rhode Island emerged in a lawsuit filed Thursday, state prosecutors said they are conducting an exhaustive review of more than 100,000 documents related to the sexual abuse of children that have been turned over by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

The attorney general’s office is examining files going back 70 years to determine whether any of the cases warrant criminal charges — and whether there are any credibly accused clergy still in the ministry.

Prosecutors are also looking at how the diocese has been handling reports of abuse.

The latest stunning lawsuit, filed in Superior Court, alleges that the diocese had an “organized protection system” that used money and influence to pressure victims, families, and witnesses from seeking criminal investigations of abusive priests. Read more.

Feb. 3, 2020

How is the Catholic Church spending ‘Peter’s Pence?’ A R.I. parishioner sues to find out

By Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- A parishioner in East Providence has filed a federal class action lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after media reports that as little as 10 percent of collections go to charity.

Every year, the Conference of Catholic Bishops solicits for donations from parishioners at Catholic churches around the country for the “Peter’s Pence Collection.” The fund is advertised as a collection to help victims of war, natural disasters and disease throughout the world.

But the Wall Street Journal and other media in Italy reported that millions of dollars were actually going to “plug holes in the Vatican’s administrative budget” -- along with investments in other unusual projects. Read more.

Dec. 20, 2019

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

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. Read more.

Sept. 25, 2019

‘Obviously, I believed the wrong person’: R.I. priest defends decision not to fire church employee accused of child molestation

BRISTOL, R.I. — The parish priest at St. Mary’s Church on Tuesday defended his decision not to fire a church administrator who was accused of child molestation and questioned why others in the town also put their faith in the accused, David E. Barboza.

“I mean, they voted for him. They elected him to office, they supported his involvement with the fire department, the Rotary, the Democratic council,” the Rev. Barry Gamache said, referring to the Bristol Democratic Town Committee. “They say, ‘You trusted him.’ It would appear the entire town trusted him.”

Gamache was also confronted after Mass Tuesday morning by the parishioner who’d been the first to warn the diocese about Barboza, more than 20 years ago. Read more.

Father Barry Gamache closes the doors of St Mary's Parish after Sunday Mass in Bristol, R.I. Allegations have been set against the Parish of not reporting the alleged molestations of Rhode Island politician David E. Barboza.Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

Sept. 23, 2019

A R.I. church was told it hired an accused child molester. It kept him on for two decades.

By Amanda Milkovits

RISTOL, R.I. — When the Rev. Barry Gamache arrived at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in early 1997, it had been a dozen years since a former longtime parish priest was hauled away for sexually abusing teenage boys.

The scandal caused by the Rev. William C. O’Connell had rocked this town’s oldest and largest Catholic parish and left its members feeling betrayed even a decade later.

Gamache, a plainspoken son of a commercial fisherman from Narragansett, said he knew what the parishioners of St. Mary’s needed to hear.

“I told people I would do everything to protect their children,” Gamache said.

And when the new priest needed someone to handle the church’s finances, he found a parishioner who was eager to help: David E. Barboza.

A Globe investigation this summer revealed that Barboza had been accused of sexual misconduct with three boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

Gamache said he was “surprised and hurt” by those revelations. Two other men have subsequently reported to the State Police that they were also victims, and still others have made similar allegations to the Globe.

“You read Facebook, everyone in town knew, but not a soul mentioned it to me,” Gamache said in an interview after a recent Sunday Mass. “You can quote me on that.”

But the Diocese of Providence’s own records, obtained by the Globe, tell a different story. So do people who say they warned Gamache and the diocese to keep Barboza away from children. Read more.

Joe Lazzerini, President of RI Pride, spoke during a pride rally held in Cathedral Square in front of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence in 2019.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Aug. 2, 2019

Following Globe investigation, Bristol town leader loses job, faces backlash

By Amanda Milkovits

BRISTOL, R.I. — A prominent local official accused of soliciting one boy and sexually abusing two others decades ago has lost his longtime job at a Catholic church, while the diocese has acknowledged that it had received complaints in the past about his conduct. Read more.

June 30, 2019

For the first time since the church sexual abuse scandal began, the Providence diocese lists clergy accused of abusing minors

By Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE — For the first time since the clergy sexual abuse scandal surfaced almost two decades ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence on Monday announced the names of 48 priests and deacons who have been “credibly” accused of the sexual abuse of minors.

The published list, which covers allegations dating back to 1950, includes 17 priests and two deacons who are still alive and 29 priests who have died. The diocese, which posted the lists on its website, said all of those still alive have been removed from ministry, but did not disclose when.

While the list of names includes some not previously made public, the number of accused is far fewer than the 125 priests that the diocese said in a decade-old court deposition had been accused of sexual abuse. Read more.

June 2, 2019

After R.I. bishop’s tweet outrages LGBTQ community, a priest pleads with faithful not to leave the church

By Edward Fitzpatrick and Amanda Milkovits

PROVIDENCE — A weekend tweet by Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin warning his congregants not to support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events prompted a national outcry and protests on Sunday in this city with a deep, if divided, Catholic tradition.

The reverberations reached into the morning services at St. Raymond’s Roman Catholic Church, where attendees, including Governor Gina Raimondo, passed beneath a wooden sign that reads “All Are Welcome In This Place.’’ Read more.

Feb. 26, 2019

Rhode Island attorney general to review church abuse claims

By The Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s attorney general said Tuesday that he’s reviewing allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the state following similar examinations elsewhere.

A grand jury report last year in Pennsylvania found hundreds of abusive priests in the state. Catholic dioceses in more than two dozen states have named suspected abusers since that landmark report, and several states have announced they’re taking a closer look at such allegations.