This past Sunday many St. Timothy Church parishioners were shocked and saddened to learn that their pastor, Father Barry Meehan, has resigned his post and has been placed on administrative leave as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct more than 25 years ago.
Almost simultaneously, the news was being carried on television and radio reports as well as being flashed on social media.
The story was virtually the same everywhere. The media reported how the diocese had received complaints, found them credible and had referred the matter to the state police. Quotes from The Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, indicate that the diocese takes the matter very seriously and were consistent from news outlet to news outlet.
This was no mistake.
What stands out is the completeness of the information; the fact that the diocese put it out and soon after Father Meehan’s resignation and in sync with notification to parishioners.
We won’t know whether charges will be filed against Father Meehan until the state police investigation is complete. Even then, Father Meehan may be found to be innocent.
Some feel that the process was unfair to Father Meehan and gives too much credence to his accusers, who have not been named.
The diocese, unlike the response to similar allegations in the past, took immediate and proper action. There have been no whispers about a cover-up or denials with unanswered questions.
This is not easy for those involved – there are already consequences of personal feelings, reputations and relationships. But the diocese has handled it right – promptly, with solemnity, candor and transparency.