PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A West Warwick parish priest said he could have expressed himself more clearly when he said in a television interview that unlike abortion, “pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone.”
The Rev. Richard Bucci of Sacred Heart Church said Tuesday that he’s well aware that victims of sexual abuse suffer immensely. He knows about the toll of child sexual abuse, he said, because he has supported victims and because he was the first one to blow the whistle on an abusive priest.
“I should have made it clearer that I wasn’t saying there was no suffering to the person who is abused physically,” Father Bucci said Tuesday. “Especially a child who puts their trust in faith, whether it be a priest, a rabbi, an uncle, a parent. That’s absolute.”
The outspoken Bucci has made multiple rounds of headlines since he barred Rhode Island lawmakers who voted to codify abortion rights in the state from receiving Communion. Bucci said in a letter that they were also barred from acting as “witnesses to marriage, godparents, or lectors at weddings, funerals or any other church function.”
Father Bucci issued the flier to his parishioners last Sunday, and mailed them to the state legislators who voted for the law. The Roman Catholic Diocese did not explicitly condemn the flier, which Father Bucci also mailed to the homes of several legislators.
In an interview on Sunday with WJAR-TV, Bucci said: “We’re not talking about any other moral issue, where some may make a comparison between pedophilia and abortion. Well, pedophilia doesn’t kill anyone, and this does.”
But Bucci said he did not mean to suggest that pedophilia was not a grave offense against children. He also acknowledged Tuesday that sexual abuse of children can be fatal: He knows of one victim personally who died by suicide after suffering abuse, he said.
“It kills the spirit, it kills childhood,” Bucci said. “I was focusing on the fact that there is no future at all for an unborn child who is aborted, whereas a child who is molested, with a great deal of effort and prayer and therapy and medicine, can at least lead a life that can accomplish things.”
‘The tongue is a fire’::Southern Baptist church fractures over secrets and spiritual abuse
Bucci said he was the first person to report the Rev. William O’Connell to the state police when they served together as priests in Bristol in the early 1980s. He did so anonymously, he said, but nothing was done about it. O’Connell, now dead, was eventually arrested and charged, but only after other victims came forward, Bucci said.
After he spoke out about O’Connell, Bucci said, the diocese at the time ostracized him for doing so. The retaliation lasted for years, he said.
Now, though, he said he is thankful for the leadership of Bishop Thomas Tobin.
Bucci said he stands by his decision to deny Communion to lawmakers who voted to codify abortion rights in the state, and stood by the general proposition that abortion is worse than pedophilia.
“I do believe killing an innocent child is the worst possible sin,” Bucci said.
A dozen state lawmakers called on Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin to “suspend” Bucci, including state Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, whose sister, Ann Hagan Webb, was a victim of childhood abuse at that parish.
“Father Bucci’s statements, they are unacceptable to all of us. They are horrible,” said McEntee. “They have inflicted pain upon the victims and the survivors that have already endured so much at their hands.”
McEntee was on the list of people no longer allowed to receive Communion at Sacred Heart.