Former Pascoag priest indicted on multiple counts of child molestation

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BURRILLVILLE – Forty three years after being accused of sexual abuse in Burrillville, a former priest at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Pascoag has been indicted by the statewide grand jury.

James Silva, now 81, has been indicted on 11 counts, including two counts of first-degree child molestation and nine counts of second-degree child molestation, following an investigation by the office of the Attorney General and the Rhode Island State Police.

Silva, who was ordained in 1967, faced his first accusations of sexual misconduct during his time at Saint Matthew Church in Cranston, where he served in the mid-1970s. He was then transferred to the Pascoag church by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence under Bishop Louis Gelineau.

Silva served at St. Joseph’s from 1976 until 1980, when he was accused of sexual abuse against young boys in that parish. At the time, Zambarano Hospital was a mission of St. Joseph’s.

The priest was removed from Burrillville and transferred to St. Lucy’s Church in Middletown, where he again faced accusations of abuse of a boy, according to records outlined by bishopaccountability.org.

A 2002 article in The Boston Globe noted that, “Gelineau met with parents from St. Joseph’s School in Pascoag who had accused Silva of sexual abuse, and Gelineau ‘promised the children would be protected.”

The story pointed out that, unlike the Diocese of Boston, which paid $30 million to settle 84 lawsuits that same year, the Providence diocese’s, “pervasive influence,” kept suits against 11 priests and one nun at a near standstill for many years in Rhode Island.

In 1995, Silva was convicted of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old man in Providence while filling in for a vacationing priest, and received a seven-year suspended sentence.

He retired in 1993.

This week, the grand jury returned a sealed indictment against Silva, alleging that he sexually assaulted a male victim under the age of 14 between 1989 and 1990.

After the indictment was returned, a warrant was issued for Silva’s arrest. He was arraigned on Monday, Nov. 8 at a hearing before Superior Court Asst. Justice Maureen Keough, according to a release from the state Attorney General’s office. The charges reportedly stem from his actions while he served Interim Director and Assistant Director at the Office of Ministerial Formation from 1986 until 1991.

“This is the third case this office has brought against a clergy member based on child sexual abuse allegations,” said said Attorney General Peter Neronha this week. “Our investigation remains active and ongoing.”

In May, a statewide grand jury returned an indictment charging former Priest Edward Kelley, who served at St. John’s Church in North Smithfield, with multiple counts of sexual assault. 

Silva’s bail was set at $50,000 with surety. The court also issued a no contact order between Silva and his alleged victim, as well as any other person under the age of 18. 

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