Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Catholic Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, worked as the auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1992 to 1996. In recent statements to the press in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop Tobin admitted that he “became aware of incidents of sexual abuse when they were reported to the diocese.” However, Bishop Tobin said he did nothing about these allegations because they were outside his realm of responsibility.
In writing about the Pittsburgh Diocese the grand jury report concluded that “[t]he evidence … showed that Diocesan administrators, including the bishops, had knowledge of this conduct yet regularly placed the priests in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct was enabling to the offenders and endangered the welfare of children.”
We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up when they are aware that a crime has been committed – particularly a crime against children who may not be able to speak for themselves. Pittsburgh church officials, including Bishop Tobin, should have been notifying law enforcement so that the abusers could be prosecuted and innocent lives protected. Instead, they covered up these crimes, endangering countless children and preventing most victims from having their day in court.
Last week the Diocese of Providence sent a press release stating “incidents of sexual abuse of minors in the Church – or wherever they occur – must be aggressively addressed, eliminated, and punished. In light of the news of recent days, in our country and around the world, the Diocese of Providence renews its commitment to provide a safe environment for children and youth.”
Yet Bishop Tobin chose not to aggressively address, eliminate and punish incidents of child sexual assault when he was part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. His current words ring hollow for the survivors of the 99 identified, and untold numbers of unidentified, predator priests who served in the Diocese of Pittsburgh over the last 70 years.
The report on the Pittsburg Diocese begins on page 207.