Rhode Island Catholic Church Sexual Abuse
The Catholic Church in Rhode Island has a history of credible allegations of misconduct against its priests.
However, for years, the Church ignored these reports of sexual exploitation by sexually abused victims and only transferred the accused clergy members as opposed to reporting them to law enforcement.
Last year, the Rhode Island Legislature made it easier for victims of childhood abuse to file a claim for the suffering that they endured. Previously, the strict case filing time limit laws made it very difficult for those who endured misconduct to file a civil claim.
Under the new law, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island could be held accountable in a civil action for the harm that its priests inflicted on youth whose parents entrusted them to the spiritual care of the Church.
Catholic Church Lawsuit Attorneys
To prove a legal, financial compensation case for the abuse, the plaintiff must show that it is more probable than not that they experienced inappropriate sexual misconduct at the hands of a priest.
The personal injury attorneys at our law firm can help you gather the evidence that you need to prove your case.
Are you are a former student or a parishioner and have suffered abuse?
Contact us today for a free consultation about how you can file a personal injury case for your child sex abuse against the religious leaders and the Diocese of Providence.
The Catholic Church in Rhode Island
While Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic congregation is in decline, it does not diminish from the universe of potential plaintiffs who can file an abuse claim against the Catholic Church.
As of 2018, there were a total of 321,000 parishioners statewide actively attending mass. Rhode Island has the highest proportion of Catholics in the state in the entire United States.
About 42% of the state’s residents are Catholics, which is a drop of almost 40% since 2000. Nonetheless, Rhode Island is still considered to have the highest proportion of Catholics in the United States and a high incident rate of clergy abuse.
The Providence Diocese manages all parishes in Rhode Island and surrounding areas like Warwick. There are eight deaneries or groupings of parishes across the state. There are 179 parishes and 98 Catholic schools in the state.
Sexual Misconduct Scandals in the Providence Diocese
Like other Catholic dioceses, the Providence Dioceses compiled a list of credibly accused Church employees involved in abuse cases. The list contained dozens of clergy members and diocesan employees.
Many cases involve deceased clergy members. The other priests on the list have been removed from the ministry.
However, the sheer size of the list reveals the extensive problem of sexual abuse in the parishes and Catholic schools of Rhode Island. Some of the priests who are still alive are facing a criminal investigation by the attorney general and state prosecutors that may result in criminal charges.
Many of the sex abuse victims who have filed legal cases have directly named the former diocesan Bishop in their complaints in state court. The plaintiffs accused the Bishop of a lax approach in dealing with allegations of sexual assault involving child sexual predators.
Like many other dioceses across the country, the diocese did nothing when confronted with credible allegations of abuse. Instead, they simply moved the accused priest to a new parish where they were able to assault more children.
Even the former Bishop Gelineau himself of the diocese himself was accused of molesting a boy at an orphanage in Vermont and trying to drown him. The former Bishop stepped down from his duties in connection with allegations of mismanagement.
Sexual abuse has been endemic in the diocese for decades. State religious leaders had already paid for the abuse committed by its priests and will likely continue to pay as more civil lawsuits have been filed.
Sexual Assault Lawsuits and Settlements
The Diocese was one of the first in the country to face widespread cases over the decades of exploitation and child molestation committed by its priests. There was a series of sexual abuse claims centered on the actions of ten separate priests and one nun.
After fighting these lawsuits for nearly ten years, the Diocese’s lawyers settled a total of 36 court cases with a $13.5 million settlement. In all, the Diocese of Providence has paid out more than $21 million to settle sexual abuse lawsuits filed against it.
However, this was not the end of the lawsuits for the Providence Diocese. In April 2020, a very disturbing lawsuit was filed against the Providence Diocese alleging that one of its priests trafficked children for sex both in the Providence rectories and in an orphanage in Haiti.
This is one of many instances of sexual abuse of a minor that has been brought to court. The complaint alleges that religious leaders knew of the priest’s action and, instead of turning him into law enforcement, merely gave him a new assignment.
Another victim filed a lawsuit against the Providence Diocese in October 2019 claiming that he was subject to abuse over a five-year period by a priest. This particular clergy member’s name appeared on the list of credibly accused priests who were a part of the religious order, and he died back in 2008.
In February 2020, the Associated Press reporting the Haiti orphanage child abuse cover-up revealed the personal injury lawsuit claiming a West Warwick priest said, “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys were seeking damages, including pain and suffering, from the diocese, Bishop Tobin, retired bishop Gelineau, and St. Joseph parish.
Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island Lawsuits
Like other states, the Rhode Island General Assembly has changed laws to make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse to sue.
The state took a somewhat different approach than states such as New York and New Jersey, which instituted a window in which the statute of limitations was waived and victims who were previously barred can now sue with the new time limit. The old law kept many of the victims of sexual abuse from suing.
Legislators lengthened the statute of limitations. H5171 & S315 were the bills that accomplished this, and they were signed into law on July 1, 2019. That was the same exact day that religious leaders posted a list of credibly accused priests.
Now, a victim has until thirty-five years after their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit in their case. This allows abuse victims more time to sue because many of them are dealing with repressed memories.
However, as of this writing, the Catholic Church is challenging the constitutionality of this statute. They filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed after Governor Raimondo signed the bill into law.
The state’s Attorney General is currently defending the statute in this lawsuit and has vigorously claimed that the religious leaders’ legal interpretation is wrong.
The legal system is still considering the motion to dismiss notwithstanding the opposition from the attorney general’s office. However, none of these laws nationwide have been struck down in the Supreme Court.
Damages in a Sexual Assault Case
When you file a lawsuit for sexual assault and priest abuse in superior court, you may be entitled to damages for the following in your civil action:
- Pain and suffering at the hands of the clergy, including the emotional trauma you experienced then and now
- The costs of medical and psychological care that you have incurred
- Lost wages if your trauma has kept you from working or depressed your earning power
- Loss of enjoyment of life due to your sexual injury
- Loss of consortium
Hire Sexual Abuse Lawyers
Call a Rhode Island clergy sexual abuse lawyer today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or fill out the contact form to learn more about filing a clergy sexual abuse case against predator priests and religious leaders.
Our law firm will handle your case to pursue justice for what was done to you months or years ago during your childhood.
Your child sexual abuse lawyer will handle your clergy abuse case with sensitivity while fighting hard for you to receive the financial compensation that you deserve for your sexual abuse allegations.
We understand the trauma that you are dealing with as an abuse survivor. Contact us to set up your free initial consultation for immediate legal advice and discuss obtaining financial compensation to recover your damages.