Removal of priest accused of child molestation sparks fresh drive to let victims sue

Category: Catholic Sexual Abuse

The decade of inaction that went by after the first of Smithfield priest Francis C. Santilli‘s alleged victims came forward has fueled a renewed drive to hold institutions — including the Catholic Church — legally liable for the sexual abuse of children.

On Tuesday, Rep. Carol McEntee introduced the latest version of a bill to eliminate the time limit on lawsuits by victims of childhood sex abuse.

And not for the first time, McEntee is seeking to remove a barrier to the filing of lawsuits against people and institutions who enabled and protected child sexual abusers by looking the other way or concealing their crimes. 

The battle is personal for McEntee.

She grew up in a devout Catholic home and learned years later that her older sister, Ann, had been sexually molested, repeatedly, by their now-deceased parish priest in West Warwick over seven years that began in 1957, when Ann was 5 years old.

Her sister, Ann Hagan Webb, a psychologist now in her late 60s, was one of several victims of priests and other trusted elders, including staff members at the elite St. George’s School in Middletown, who have told their stories to state lawmakers year after year.

In 2019, they made some headway.

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