Embattled Bishop Tobin Says He Will “Personally Fast” for “Penance for My Own Faults” in Sex Abuse

Friday, August 24, 2018


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Bishop Thomas Tobin

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese is facing lawsuits, the potential financial collapses of another pension fund and harsh criticism for his role as the Auxillary Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh during a period in which more than a 1,000 children were abused by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania, according to a grand jury.

On Thursday, Tobin announced that he will fast for 24-hours in September for his "failures" in the sexual abuse controversy.

For Tobin, the revelation of sexual abuse crimes tied to former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl -- now Cardinal of Washington, D.C., is just the latest issue. In August 2017, the St. Joseph pension fund collapsed. In June of 2018, the receiver for the fund named the Diocese of Providence in a massive fraud lawsuit on behalf of the more than 2,700 plan members.

Also, in June of 2018, GoLocal unveiled a new major controversy for the Diocese, which is that the pension plan for the teachers and staff of the Catholic schools is in massive financial distress.

“The unfunded liability of the Lay Employees’ Retirement Plan will continue to grow and will become untenable in the near future,” stated a recent Diocesan document unveiled by GoLocal. 


August 23, 2018

Dear Friends in Christ, 

These are indeed very difficult and dark days for our Church. In recognizing the anger, pain and confusion that many Catholics are experiencing over recent allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests, and negligence of bishops in dealing with the crisis, I humbly ask you to join me in a special day of prayer and penance on Friday, September 14th. 

The event will begin with the Noon Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, to be followed by three hours of Eucharistic adoration, and will conclude with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 3:00 p.m. 

I will undertake a personal 24-hour fast from 8:00 am on Friday the 14th until 8:00 am on Saturday the 15th in penance for my own faults and failures as a Christian, priest and bishop, as well as for the sins and failures of all priests and bishops related to the sexual abuse of minors. 

In announcing this special day of prayer and penance, I echo the words of Pope Francis in his “Letter to the People of God”: “It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable . . . Penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings.” 

I invite all the members of our clergy, all the members of our Church, and all those who have expressed their deep concern over this grave issue, to join me in this spiritual endeavor, either in person at our Cathedral, or in their own personal prayer and penance in their local parishes and homes. Our commitment to end the scourge of sexual abuse doesn’t end with prayer, but it begins there, knowing that without God’s grace and power we can do nothing, that the best of our human efforts will be in vain. 

Friday, September the 14th is an important Feast Day for Catholics, the “Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Christ.” I have chosen this date as a reminder that from the immense suffering of the Cross came redemption and new life for the world.  Through the power of Christ’s Cross, and the intercession of our Blessed Mother, our Lady of Sorrows, may God bring healing and peace to all those who have suffered the horrible and long-lasting pain of sexual abuse, as well as true repentance, reform and reconciliation to the Church and our community. 

My commitment to provide a safe environment for children and youth in the Diocese of Providence, to purge the Church of these horrible acts and to respond compassionately to all those who have been harmed remains firm. May God forgive us our sins and grant us the grace to follow a path of reform and renewal. 

Sincerely yours in Christ, 
Thomas J. Tobin 
Bishop of Providence    

Editor's Note: A prior version had the number of priests at 3,000; it has been corrected to 300.




Related Slideshow: 10 Shocking Elements of the St. Joseph Pension Fund Lawsuit Against the Diocese and Others

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Another Hospital Group Identified that the Pension Fund Needed $72M for Plan

In 2012, prior to CharterCare, then the owner of St. Joseph being sold to Prospect of California, another hospital group wanted to purchase Roger Williams, St. Joseph and Fatima. That group, LHP Hospital Group, identified that the pension fund needed a $72 million infusion, but their offer was rejected.

The $72 million was $58 million more than the amount put into the pension fund by Prospect, the eventual purchaser, in 2014.

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All the Parties Knew the Pension Plan Was No Longer a Church Plan

Post sale of St. Joseph to CharterCare in 2009 and then CharterCare’s sale to Prospect, and despite knowing that for the pension fund to continued to be considered a “church plan,” the Diocese and hospital officials continued to list the hospital under the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Catholic directory as “operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with the Roman Catholic Church.”

The lawsuit states that all the defendants in the suit knew this claim was false.

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Tobin Misleads the Vatican

The lawsuit lays out that “Bishop Thomas Tobin did not disclose in his letter to the Vatican that the proposed asset sale increased the probability of the Plan failing. Instead, Bishop Tobin omitted that information and, in effect, said the opposite, that approval of the asset sale was actually necessary to secure the Plan.”

The suit goes on to assert, "On September 27, 2013, Tobin signed his letter as altered by [legal] counsel for [St. Joseph Health Services, CharterCare and Roger Williams Hospital] and sent it to the Vatican.”

The parties knew the implications, “These misrepresentations and omission concerning the Plan in the Bishop’s letter to the Vatican…all understood that Vatican approval was required for the transaction to proceed..”

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Suit Alleges Fraud

The lawsuit is blunt as it alleges that, "Saint Joseph Health Services of RI, the Prospect Entities, and other Defendants violated ERISA, committed fraud, breached their contractual obligations, violated their duty of good faith and fair dealing, and otherwise acted wrongfully. As a result, they must be required to compensate losses to the Plan and remedy such violations, including returning all assets improperly diverted to the Plan, and to otherwise fully fund the plan."

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Severe Remedy

Wistow and his team claim the remedy of violating the "fraudulent conveyance" laws in Rhode Island are severe and that the Plan -- thus the retirees -- should receive the assets, aka, CharterCare.

"They also ran afoul of Rhode Island laws prohibiting fraudulent conveyances. The remedies for those violations include that the Prospect Entities must turn over to the Plan and its participants the entirety of the assets they acquired in the 2014 Asset Sale, with no credit of offset for what they paid for those assets, or for the improvements that they may have made on the facilities. In other words, the Plaintiffs are entitled to a judgment awarding them these assets, including but to limited to New Fatima Hospital and New Roger Williams Hospital, or ordering that these properties and other assets be sold and awarding Plaintiffs the process from the sale up to the amount necessary to fully fund the Plan on a termination basis and to ensure the pensions of all Plan participants."

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Quid Pro Quo

On August 14, 2013, key hospital officials meet with the leadership of the Diocese of Providence’s office to get sign off on the sale to Prospect.

According to documents, a meeting was convened which was attended by Bishop Tobin, Rev. Timothy Reilly and Msgr. Paul Theroux at that meeting the top Diocese officials signed off on the deal which cast the pension off as an orphaned plan. The deal also asserted certain promises critical to the leadership of the Diocese specifically that Roger Williams Medical Center would not engage in prohibited activities of the Diocese and specifically listed:



Physician-assisted suicide

The suit asserts that there was a “quid pro quo for freeing New Fatima Hospital from the unfunded liabilities of the plan, and granting these extensive and perpetual ‘Catholic identity covenants’ for New Fatima Hospital and New Roger Williams Hospital.”

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Violated Federal Law and Federal Oversight

As the hospitals left the control of the Diocese and were sold off in 2009 and then, the ultimate sale to Prospect, officials knew that the pension plan was no longer a "Church Plan" and thus needed to then fall under federal regulatory review under ERISA.

According to the lawsuit, the "deceit" create a federal violation of the law and de facto an "unlawful violation of tax law and ERISA."

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Misleading the Vatican, Continued

Bishop Tobin did not disclose in his letter to the Vatican that the proposed asset sale increased the probability of the plan failing. Instead, Bishop Tobin omitted that information (removed from the letter was “spiraling and gaping liability’ which was in the draft) and, in effect, said the opposite, that the approval of the asset sale [to CharterCare] was actually necessary to secure the plan."

The lawsuit goes on to assert, ”These misrepresentations and omissions concerning the Plan in the Bishop’s letter to the Vatican were included by the defendants…and the Diocesan defendant, all understood that the Vatican approval was required for the transaction to proceed, and knew or were told that the Vatican must approve specifically the ‘pension structuring.’”

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Most Damning - Email After the Sale

In order to continue the status of the pension fund as a "Church Plan" and thus hide the financial condition of the fund from members and keep from federal regulation, after the sale legal counsel for St. Joseph Health Services of RI sent an email to the Diocese and copied CharterCare and the actuary Angell, reminding everyone of the consequences of the Diocesan defendants not listing St. Joseph in the Catholic Directory.

"Saint Joseph Health Services of RI believes that if it is not included in the 2015 issue of the directory that the pension fund will no longer qualify as a church plan and that the loss of the status will require that they immediately notify the applicable governmental authorities that the plan is currently underfunded."

The Diocese officials than contacted the editors of the directory and made sure that the St. Joseph remained listed, according to the suit.

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Funds Diverted to Priest's Pension Fund

One of the biggest affronts to members of the now failed St. Joseph pension fund was that when the sale of CharterCare was completed the Diocese received a $640,000 repayment of a loan from the Inter-Parish Loan Fund. 

The Diocese received those funds and instead of applying them to the pension fund, according to the lawsuit church records show that the loan was partially repaid, but that $100,000 was diverted to the priest's retirement fund -- a fund that is reportedly fully funded.


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