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Sunday, March 20, 2022

Bishop Tobin to pensioners: A smile and a nod and I’ll pray for you

Fatima and St. Joseph's Hospitals pension holders want the Church to honor its obligations

By Steve Ahlquist un UpRiseRI

“Bishop we ask you, do what’s right for pensioners!” called out Lynn Blais, a registered nurse with 37 years on the job at Fatima Hospital. “Sit down, talk with us, do your moral obligation to fund the pension appropriately!”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence Diocese walked by, smiling and mostly ignoring the pensioners and the protest.

“And that’s basically what we get,” said Blais, laughing ruefully. “A smile and a nod and I’ll pray for you…

“…We need more than prayers.”

About a dozen people were protesting Bishop Tobin as he participated in a St. Patrick’s Day event at Our Lady of Mercy Church on 65 3rd Street in East Greenwich Thursday morning, “as part of the ongoing campaign to make practicing Catholics aware of Bishop Tobin’s betrayal of the St. Joe’s healthcare retirees.”

At issue is the pension plan for roughly 2700 workers – mostly older women – managed by the Church. That plan was underfunded for years, resulting in big loss, as much as a 40% reduction, for retired workers who had counted on the pension to be there for their retirement. Bishop Tobin of the Providence Diocese chaired the board overseeing the pension.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of the roughly 2,700 participants in the pension plan for current and retired employees of Fatima Hospital and the former St. Joseph Hospital accuses the Catholic Church and other defendants of “fraud and conspiracy.” All of the defendants have settled the lawsuit – except Bishop Tobin and the Diocese, who still refuse to take accountability for their actions.

“We’re out here today to bring attention to the Bishop and to do what’s right for all the pensioners that committed many years at St. Joseph’s health services and at Fatima Hospital,” said pensioner Lynn Blais. Blais is also the president of UNAP, the nurses’ union.

Bishop Tobin, said Blais, “is the last man standing. We have settled lawsuits with multiple other litigants in the case and the church has refused outright to sit down and try to come to an agreement…

“To us, the church is the most culpable in this entire experience,” said Blais. “This was a church based pension. The Bishop was the Chairman of the Board. The Bishop had ultimate control over that pension. So they hold the most responsibility to make sure that that pension was funded appropriately and correctly, and 2700 pensioners can go into retirement knowing they have the security of a pension.”

According to a press release, “The Church now remains as the sole defendant not to settle and has been obstinate in their disregard of the workers, despite running a massive capital campaign called Grateful For God, which earmarks $8 million to fund the lifestyles of retired priests, because they ‘can’t abandon them.'”

You can learn more about the pensioner’s campaign at

UpriseRI spoke with pensioner Donna Boutelle after Bishop Tobin walked by.

“A lot of people have hard time understanding that a Catholic Bishop Amy not be capable of being truthful,” said Boutelle.

“Recently though, there’s been more acknowledgement from church leadership about some of their more grievous behaviors,” said UpriseRI.

“Absolutely,” agreed Boutelle. “And that’s a good thing.”

“Does it shake your faith at all?” asked UpriseRI.

“Not really,” said Boutlle. “Because you know what? They’re people. They’re not the faith. They’re people and people are not perfect…

“I go to church,” continued Boutelle. “I wouldn’t say that I’m a devout Catholic, like some of my family, but I still believe in God and I still go to church.