Rhode Island Church Knowingly Employed Child Abuser for 20 Years

A church in Rhode Island has knowingly employed a child abuser for twenty years, potentially giving this dangerous man access to vulnerable children. This open and flagrant violation of the Dallas Charter should demand an immediate response from church officials in Rhode Island and the Vatican.

Despite having been informed of the sexual assault allegations against David E. Barboza, church leaders at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Bristol, R.I., allowed Barboza to work there for 21 years, only letting him go after an investigative report by the Boston Globe.

Records show that Rev. Barry Gamache and other church leaders at St. Mary’s were first warned about Barboza in 1998. In response, church officials did nothing.

They were warned repeatedly over the next 21 years, by both parishioners and previous victims of Barboza. In response, church officials did nothing.

When would have church officials finally acted? What inciting incident were they waiting on, another children to be hurt by Barboza? This inaction and delay is inexcusable and parishioners should demand the immediate resignation of the church officials who allowed this situation to happen in the first place.

Rev. Gamache has stated that he did not believe the allegations were credible, so he kept Barboza in his job. This kind of stunning arrogance is exactly what has led the church’s abuse scandal to affect so many in the first place. This is also yet another example of why survivors and advocates have no faith in the policies and procedures the church has laid out to prevent abuse.

The simple fact is that Rev. Gamache is no trained law enforcement official and his judgement of the allegations against Barboza is irrelevant. What is not irrelevant is that the priest used his position to keep an abuser employed within the church, and that decision should cost Rev. Gamache his position. It is clear that he cannot be counted on to protect children and have “zero tolerance” for abuse, as demanded by the Dallas charter.

Multiple people have come forward to allege abuse by Barboza. That alone should have led Rev. Gamache and then-Bishop of Providence Robert E. Mulvee to take action. They did not. Now, the Vatican should step in and discipline these men for failing in their duty to protect children and keep abusers away from the vulnerable. Attorney General Peter Neronha, who is investigating clergy abuse in Rhode Island, should also look closely at this situation and determine if any laws were broken. 

Anyone who has knowledge or suspicions about abuse – whether committed by Barboza or any other church staffer – should find the courage and strength to come forward, make a report to law enforcement, and start healing.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant