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Spotlight Report

Providence bishop ignored son's abuse report, mother says

By Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 3/21/2002

PROVIDENCE - The mother of an alleged sexual abuse victim of a Rhode Island priest angrily complained in 1993 to the Providence bishop that he had failed to act on her son's report and remove the priest from having contact with other children, giving him more chances to molest.

The Rev. Daniel Azzarone, now 51, remained in parish work for another eight years, until he was arrested last November on charges of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy at a Cranston parish. Since then, another child has claimed he was assaulted by Azzarone, according to police.

Jeannette Costa of West Kingston said yesterday in a statement that she had written a four-page letter to then-Bishop Louis E. Gelineau in June 1993 complaining about the church's lack of action after her son's accusations. ''A suspected pedophile being allowed in the proximity of other children, where he most certainly will engage in this criminal act if given the opportunity, is something that cannot be forgiven,'' she wrote.

Costa said that after sending the letter, an attorney for the church, William T. Murphy, assured her that Azzarone's pastor would watch over him.

Costa's son Daniel died in 1992 at the age of 30 from AIDS, according to the diocese. Months before he died, Costa said Azzarone had fondled him more than a decade earlier.

In the late 1990s, the church received another allegation against Azzarone from the mother of a man hospitalized for schizophrenia, but again did not remove him from contact with children, according to the mother.

The church issued a statement Tuesday saying that Daniel Costa's allegation had been passed on to the state agency that represents children's interests. That agency ''declined to investigate'' because the victim was an adult at the time the claim was made, and the information was forwarded to State Police.

''We do not know the result of the State Police investigation, if any,'' the statement said. Priests cannot be removed for unsubstantiated claims, the statement said. A spokesman for the diocese could not be reached for comment yesterday. Murphy also could not be reached.

Azzarone, while at St. Clement's in Warwick, took Daniel Costa, then 17, on several trips, including one to see Pope John Paul II when he visited Boston in 1979, his mother said. Her son told her he had dressed as a seminarian and was able to touch the pope's hand at a clerics-only event. ''What we did not know was the terrible price he had to pay for that particular honor,'' she wrote in 1993.

Costa revealed the alleged abuse while undergoing counseling in Nevada in 1992. The counseling center notified Bishop Gelineau. Two months later - 12 hours before the diocese called to talk to Costa - he died.

''It was my son Dan's intention to prevent Father Dan from either physically or emotionally injuring any other child,'' Costa wrote in 1993. In her statement yesterday, she said the attorney for the church told her Azzarone was sent for testing, which determined he was not a ''pedophile.''

Azzarone's criminal case is expected to go before a grand jury next week. On Saturday, the Globe reported that legal foot-dragging by the diocese has kept 38 alleged victims of sexual abuse waiting for up to 10 years to settle lawsuits against 11 priests and a nun. Carl DeLuca, an attorney representing some victims, yesterday released a list of 18 non-church-related properties in Warwick and Westerly that he said could be sold to pay for settlements. He was responding to the diocese's question of how a settlement could be funded.

Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 3/21/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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