New case exposes cover-up by Bishop Tobin: Statement by SNAP and BishopAccountability
(For Immediate Release February 4, 2022)
On Thursday, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Catholic diocese of Providence RI announced the removal from ministry of Fr. Francis Santilli, pastor of St. Philip’s Church in Greenville RI.
The bishop’s statement cites a single case “allegedly having occurred approximately 40 years ago.”
What Tobin didn't mention -- and what public documents prove -- is that the diocese has known for years of at least three other alleged victims of Santilli.
The diocese learned of two victims in 2012. That’s when a man emailed the diocese to say that Santilli had molested him 30 times as an altar boy in the early 1980s. The man said that his brother also had been a victim of the priest.
How do we know of these allegations? The diocese’s then-compliance officer reported them to the State Police in April 2012. That letter was made public in 2013, when the State Police were compelled to release a cache of 45 such letters in response to a freedom of information request by Channel 10.
Although Santilli’s name was redacted in the letter, he is able to be identified by the description of his post – “current pastor of St. Philip's Parish in Greenville RI.” The letter is posted here:
Note how the diocese’s Robert McCarthy takes pains in the letter to discredit each of the victims.
The diocese heard from a third victim in the spring of 2014. That victim was prompted to come forward as a result of a press conference on March 24, 2014 by SNAP founder Barbara Blaine demanding Santilli's removal from ministry.
In response to Blaine's news conference, the diocese posted a statement on its website denouncing the allegations. The statement expressed the diocese’s “total confidence” in Santilli and described him as an “exemplary pastor.” The Providence Journal’s report on the diocese’s statement is available here
The diocese dismissed the third victim too. SNAP can provide documentation of this report.
We at BishopAccountability.org and SNAP are outraged that Bishop Tobin left Santilli in ministry. He decided to put children at risk, even while he allowed brave victims to be discredited and demeaned.
The bishop has known of allegations against Santilli for nearly 10 years.
During those ten years, Santilli has had free rein with altar servers, children at the parish school, and children attending CCD classes.
How many other children and vulnerable young people have been sexually assaulted as a result of the bishop’s cover-up?
We urge RI Attorney General Peter Neronha to explore pressing criminal charges against Bishop Tobin and the Diocese of Providence for endangering Rhode Island children.
Ann Hagan Webb, EdD, SNAP, Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, RI
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director, BishopAccountability.org