·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Verdicts & Settlements

Catholic Church Admits Massive Sex Abuse Settlements to Rhode Island Lawmakers

— March 4, 2019

Petitioning lawmakers last week, the Diocese of Providence admitted to hundreds of sex abuse claims for tens of millions of dollars.

Trying to ward off Rhode Island lawmakers, officials from the Catholic Diocese of Providence have acknowledged settling more than $21 million in clergy sex abuse claims.

The total amount, writes the Providence Journal, includes $21 million set aside for “legal settlements” and another $2.3 million reserved for counseling.  In total, the archdiocese has attempted to resolve some 130 claims of abuse in its church-run schools and parishes.

The Journal notes that the diocese reported the payouts in written testimony submitted to the Rhode Island Catholic Conference and filed with the House Judiciary Committee for presentation at last Tuesday’s hearing on impending legislation.

Survivors also shared their stories, some in graphic detail.

Ann Hagan Webb, a 66-year old psychologist and sister of the Rhode Island lawmaker who introduced the legislation, identified the late Monsignor Anthony DeAngelis as a prolific and brutal predator.

“Usually we save ourselves, and you, the pain by using generalities like ‘child abuse’ or ‘molestation’ and leave it at that,” Webb said. “It’s time to rip the scab off.”

Crosses. Some states are contemplating changes to their statute of limitations for child sex abuse as a consequence of church scandals. Image via PxHere. Public domain.

Her testimony included claims of DeAngelis raping her with a crucifix and forcing her to perform oral sex. She says the abuse took place repeatedly and over a seven-year period, beginning when she was kindergarten.

Sponsored by Webb’s sister and co-sponsored by most of the state’s House representatives, the bill extends the time victims of child sex abuse have to file lawsuits against predators and perpetrators’ employers. Previously granted seven years of leniency, the proposal would boost the cap to thirty-five.

Despite the church’s attempts at transparency, the Providence Journal notes its reports’ shortcomings. While the Conference acknowledged its settlements, it didn’t specify when or within which time period the alleged abuse occurred. Neither did it indicate the extent of victimization or name the priests accused.

Nevertheless, the archdiocese has taken aim at the legislation, recommending amendments and extensive rewrites. Among the “serious” flaws identified by the group and reported by the Providence Journal are a lack of distinction between “actual perpetrators” and “non-perpetrators who are alleged to have committed unintentional negligence”; an “unconstitutional” look-back period for the filing of claims; and an inappropriate emphasis on extracting financial settlements from the Church rather than abusers or abuse in the abstract.

“The bill is not targeted at abusers or abuse but at expanding opportunities to file monetary lawsuits against a limited set of third parties who may have served as employers or for whom an assailant may have volunteers [sic],” the Conference argued.

“There is inherent unfairness and risk of error in asking a jury in 2019 to decide whether actions taken in 1957 or 1967 reflected a lack of due care,” they continued. “The understanding of child abuse in the mid-1960s was not remotely comparable to the understanding of the problem today.”

The Vatican is purportedly trying to find its own solutions to the ongoing Catholic sex abuse crisis. reported last week that Pope Francis is expected to unveil new procedures and rules in the near future.


Sex-abuse survivors offer graphic and painful testimony at R.I. House hearing

Testimony: Providence diocese has paid more than $21 million to settle clergy-abuse claims


Join the conversation!