Rhode Island AG Gains Access to Nearly 70 Years of Records from Diocese of Providence

As part of an ongoing review of allegations of clergy child sexual abuse within the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Bishop of Providence that will provide access to Diocesan files and records dating back to 1950.

The Attorney General’s review, in conjunction with the Rhode Island State Police, is intended to identify any prosecutable cases, ensure there are no credibly accused clergy in active ministry and provide input into improvements of the Diocese’s current policies and procedures for preventing and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. Its objectives include determining how the Diocese responded to past reports of child sexual abuse.

“While this voluntary, additional disclosure by the Diocese is an important step forward in our review,” Attorney General Neronha stated in a press release issued by his office, “much additional work remains. We will not hesitate to take any additional steps that may prove necessary to fully determine the scope of misconduct here and take appropriate action.”

This MOU expands on and supplements a 2016 Letter of Understanding between the Office and the Diocese dated August 30, 2016, by providing fuller access to historical records. Pursuant to the MOU, the Attorney General’s Office will have access to all files related to potential abuse by clergy and other Diocesan personnel from January 1, 1950, through the present. As part of the agreement, the Diocese will begin providing the files to the Attorney General and the Rhode Island State Police within five days for review on a rolling basis.

Files provided will include the recently released list of 50 credibly and publicly accused clergy, as well as previously collected files for the period of 1971-2007 (related to prior litigation). In addition, all files related to allegations of child sexual abuse that are maintained in the Diocese Office of Compliance, as well as any other files requested by the Attorney General, will be provided.

“It is my intention to be as transparent as possible regarding our findings, within the limits of current Rhode Island law,” Neronha continued in the release. “I am grateful to Colonel Manni for his commitment to partnering with the Office to undertake and complete this review.”

While the MOU provides for confidential and privileged information to be protected as appropriate, it will not serve as a barrier for the Attorney General and the Rhode Island State Police to obtain any information they need for their review and does not preclude the Office from using compulsory process down the road.

Victims are strongly encouraged to reach out to Jonathan Elliott, Rhode Island State Police detective, to report clergy abuse. Victims may also contact Day One’s Support Line to be connected with clinical support and advocacy services. Support is available for victims no matter when the sexual violence occurred.

Source: Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General