Former BCC Professor Sues Church Over Priest Sex Abuse Listing
A former professor at Bristol Community College -- who is also a former priest -- has sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence after his name suddenly appeared on a list of clergy who had been "credibly accused" of sexually abusing minors.
John Tormey filed his defamation lawsuit on Friday. In court documents, he denied ever sexually abusing anyone, according to the Providence Journal Watchdog Team. The suit names the diocese, Bishop Thomas Tobin, and Kevin O'Brien, a retired state police major who leads the diocese's office of compliance.
Tormey, 77, asserts that when his name appeared on the list earlier this year, he lost his job teaching at Bristol Community College and suffered public shame, ridicule, and disgrace.
Tormey's lawyer, Christoper T. Millea, said in a written statement that his client had been hesitant to take legal action "against the institution which he has proudly served and has remained faithful to for his entire life," but that Tormey's reputation has been "irreparably harmed" by the listing and that he believes taking legal action "is his only remedy to such a horrible situation."
Tormey was ordained in 1967 but voluntarily left the priesthood in 1979. He then taught at BCC for 35 years as a professor of psychology and thanatology, which is a study of cultural practices surrounding death, the Providence Journal reports.
Many Catholic dioceses around the country have compiled similar lists in response to the priest sexual abuse scandal. In a letter accompanying the Providence list, Tobin noted that inclusion does not necessarily mean the person is guilty, the Providence newspaper reported. Names were included when O'Brien "had a reasoned and grounded belief" that the allegation was sufficiently supported by available and developing evidence, the bishop wrote.
Tormey was ordained in 1967 but voluntarily left the priesthood in 1979. In court filings, he said he had never been accused of misconduct or disciplined as a priest. Tormey said that in 2002, the diocese received an allegation about him, but never told him about it.
It was not until May of this year that Tormey was informed by the diocese that his name would appear on the list of "credibly accused" clergy.
On Aug. 22, Bristol Community College President Laura Douglas sent an email to students stating that Tormey, "who is no longer employed by the college," was included on the list. "Unfortunately, there was no way that the college could have been aware of this allegation, which dates back to 1979, prior to the disclosure being published by the Diocese in the media," Douglas wrote.
Tormey's lawyer said his client "loves his faith and his Church, despite having to take such actions. He looks forward to addressing these claims for the wrongs committed against him by the Diocese and or others in a court of law."