The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office is seeking files on child sexual abuse allegations within the Catholic Church dating back to 1950. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has agreed to turn over what will likely be many files including anything related to allegations of sexual abuse against children perpetrated by Clergy or other church personnel.
The Attorney General’s office this week signed a letter of understanding with the Diocese for the release of the materials. They could include personnel files, disciplinary records, saved pleadings, and depositions.
“There are no illusions about what’s expected,” said Attorney General Peter Neronha. “We all know what’s expected. We all know what we’re looking for here in this office, and so that’s the reason for the memorandum of understanding. And we’ll take a look at that information. I expect it to be voluminous; I expect that this will take time.”
Neronha said the volume of documents will allow the state to put together a larger picture of the issue of clergy sexual abuse in the state.
“How many allegations, involving how many victims? Were there multiple victims? What was the response internally on the part of the church? What was the overall response by law enforcement,” said Neronha. “So you’re seeing it not in the context of individual cases but in cases over a broader period of time.”
“I welcome this opportunity to continue our cooperation with the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General and the Rhode Island State Police,” said Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said in a statement Tuesday. Tobin was unavailable for further comment.
Since 2016 the Diocese has agreed to notify the Attorney General’s office of every allegation lodged with the Diocese of childhood sexual abuse by clergy. But survivors and critics of the Catholic church have long complained that the Diocese was not transparent enough in its dealings with such allegations.
Earlier this summer, the Diocese released a list of clergy deemed credibly accused, most were deceased, and none are currently active in ministry. Critics attacked the list as incomplete, referencing other instances in which Diocese officials acknowledge an even greater number of accused priests.