An international organization which speaks on the behalf of those abused by members of the clergy has said it is “appalled” by the manner in which a matter involving a local priest was handled by the Bishop of the Diocese of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire.
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) also took a shot at parishioners who have thrown their support behind the priest, describing them as ‘misguided.’
Fr. Reginald Lafleur was sent on administrative leave by the Bishop Malzaire, after a woman accused him of sexually abusing her 19 years ago. However, after a meeting between Bishop Malzaire and Grand Bay church leaders, it was agreed that he would return to the parish before the end of the month.
“We’re appalled by the recklessness of Dominica Catholic Bishop Malzaire in the case of Fr. Reginald Lafleur, an alleged child sex offender,” SNAP said in an email to Dominica News Online.
The organization said the ‘misguided’ parishioners should not have allowed the bishop “into keeping kids in possible danger just because an alleged child molester happens to have a strong following.”
“The personal popularity of an accused predator priest is irrelevant,” it said.
Earlier this month news broke that Bishop Malzaire had sent Fr. Lafleur on administrative leave after the woman, who called herself Jane Doe, alleged, in correspondence to him, that she was the victim of abuse while he served in Portsmouth.
However, the bishops decision did not go down well with the parishioners of St Patrick’s Church in Grand Bay where Fr. Lafleur was serving.
They gathered outside the church on the evening of June 7, 2013 in protest action and vowed to continue protesting until they met with the bishop.
The following day, amid protest and a carnival-like atmosphere, Bishop Malzaire met with church leaders and one of the things agreed upon was that Fr. Lafleur would return to the St. Patrick’s parish in Grand Bay either “before month end or thereafter” but he won’t be removed from the parish.
SNAP is now calling upon all those who may have suffered abuse from any member of the clergy in Dominica to come forward and speak to the secular authorities. “That’s the only way kids will be safer – when those with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes speak up,” the organization said.
It said matters such as these should be dealt with only by professionals. “Child sexual abuse is a crime. It should be dealt with by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices,” SNAP stated.
SNAP is the old and largest support group in the world for clergy abuse victim. It was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members worldwide.
The organization claims it has members who have been abused by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers.