Bristol priest's handling of accusations is shameful

By Arlene Violet
Posted 10/4/19

It takes a lot to top the gall of Governor Gina Raimondo, who is intent on awarding a no-bid, 20 year, $1 billion contract to IGT whose lobbyist is her personal friend, political partner, and …

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Bristol priest's handling of accusations is shameful


It takes a lot to top the gall of Governor Gina Raimondo, who is intent on awarding a no-bid, 20 year, $1 billion contract to IGT whose lobbyist is her personal friend, political partner, and campaign contributor. Then, last week, along came her gubernatorial challenger, Mayor Allan Fung, who has submitted to the Cranston City Council an up to 35-year contract, potentially worth tens of millions of dollars, apparently without bid, to one of his campaign contributors. As outrageous are these self-dealings, there is one other story unearthed by the Boston Globe which tops the chart as moral blindness, and it involves a priest.

The Reverend Barry Gamache arrived at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Bristol in 1997. A predecessor priest, Reverend William C. O’Connell, had been prosecuted by my office and sentenced to jail for the sexual molestation of a child. Upon his arrival, Padre Gamache told his parishioners that he would do everything to protect their children. NOT!

The Boston Globe investigated a former Bristol politician, David E. Barboza, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with 3 boys in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He was hired by Pastor Gamache to handle the church’s finances. Two other men subsequently reported directly or through another reverend their allegations of sexual abuse as children when they spotted Barboza in 1998 wearing a white robe on the altar during services. They also reported to the state police out of concern for young boys in the parish. In turn, the police notified the diocese who confirmed that it had previously investigated the complaints about Barboza and had presented its results to “the pastor who maintains the day-to-day authority for parish administration.” Gamache (whom I cannot bring myself to call “Father”) did nothing.

In fact, initially he claimed that he knew nothing about the accusations and investigation. He chided those parishioners who resorted to Facebook about the allegations, but who didn’t mention anything to him.
Boston Globe journalist, Amanda Milkovits (Globe, Sept 23, 2019), showed the diocesan records proving that in 1998 Mr. Gamache was made aware of the charges over the years by a diocesan investigator. The priest then told the reporter that he didn’t think the investigation was credible. Two bishops, Robert Mulvee and Bishop Thomas Tobin, were notified about the new accusations, but punted the issue to Mr. Gamache.

The pastor continued to deflect any responsibility by telling the reporter that Barboza had no contact with children. Parishioners contradict that assertion and also note that Mr. Barboza was at Mass where altar boys served. For 21 years after being warned, the pastor kept him in place. The church had also received reports in 2002, 2006, and 2012 about a prior arrest of Barboza. The priest also told the reporter that the diocese did not tell him to fire Barboza.

Well, I’m telling the diocese something: FIRE GAMACHE if he doesn’t have the fortitude to do the right thing by resigning!

The priest maintains that he kept his word with the parishioners by protecting children. So much for acting with caution.

“I’m not going to change a thing,” he said. "Hopefully, I have won people’s trust, people who respect what I’ve done would respect it.” (Boston Globe, p.13). His arrogance continues unabated.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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