Bishop of Roseau, Gabriel Malzaire, has said that an alleged sexual conduct case involving Grand Bay parish priest, Msgr. Reginald La Fleur, will be referred to the Vatican in Rome for a decision to be made.
A decision on the matter will be made by an office of the Catholic Church called the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, after a local review board concluded it was “beyond our competence,” according to the bishop.
“The situation regarding Monsignor Reginald La Fleur and the allegations of sexual abuse of a minor has caused much pain to everyone, let alone the accused and the alleged victim,” Malzaire said in a statement on DBS Radio on Friday.
He said a local Diocesan Review Board has been looking into the matter for a year now and it has concluded that the case “is beyond our competence and therefore according to the norms of the church, needs to be referred to the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the office in Rome, which deals with those matters, for a decision.”
The bishop called on all the faithful on the island to pray for God’s guidance “in this special time of need.”
“I solicit the prayerful support and cooperation of the parishioners of St. Patrick to help build the parish in a way that God desires. Let us continue to pray for Monsignor La Fleur and the alleged victim and the entire diocese in this special time of need; we pray also for patience and divine guidance towards a just resolution to this issue,” he said.
Malzaire said Msgr. William Jno Lewis will act as parish priest until the matter is brought to a closure.
The matter surfaced in June after a woman, who is referred to as ‘Jane Doe’ in correspondence to Malzaire, alleged that she was the victim of abuse as a teen, by La Fleur, 19 years ago while he served in Portsmouth.
The parish priest was sent on administrative leave while the local review board looked into the matter. However, the decision did not go down well with parishioners who described the bishop’s decision as ‘dictatorial.’ They subsequently demonstrated outside the church in Grand Bay calling for La Fleur’s reinstatement.
The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith was founded in 1542 with the aim to “spread sound Catholic doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines”.
It investigates crimes which the church describes as ‘serious’ including crimes against the sixth Commandment (“thou shall not commit adultery”) committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen.