Monsignor Eustace Thomas can still serve as a priest but under the Bishop’s guidance and he will hold no parish or official designation.
This is the decision that’s been handed down by Rome following an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by the Catholic priest against a female complainant.
After two years, the Vatican has issued its findings and recommendations to Bishop of Roseau, His Lordship Gabriel Malzaire.
“Rome is saying given the circumstances and the time that the alleged incident may have taken place, he can still serve as a priest but under the guidance of the Bishop,” Malzaire stated in an interview.
The Bishop also said that Monsignor Thomas will hold no parish or official designation and will be required to function under the guidance and direction of the Bishop.
He said the recommendations from Rome did not say if the priest was “guilty or not guilty.”
“I can’t say he was found guilty. The letter said considering the “alleged allegations.” The letter and recommendations from Rome do not say that he was found guilty or not,” he explained.
The aggrieved female said that in September of 2016, she filed a letter of complaint addressed to the Bishop of Roseau.
“The follow-up response came from the Church’s Delegate based in Trinidad. This letter outlined the Delegate’s role in the process, what I should expect, and a list of prospective venues where I could go to give a face-to-face deposition. My family and friends persuaded me not to go to Dominica as they were scared for my life and safety, so we opted to go to Trinidad instead, where my deposition took up to 12 hours…and there was so much I did not remember to tell…,” she said.
She continued, “After my deposition, the accused was given the opportunity to respond with his defense and after a waiting period of a few months, the review board made their decision and provided an additional 15 days for the accused to put forth a defense.”
Bishop Malzaire said he used the review board of Trinidad to ensure that the process “was objective and fair” and when the board returned its findings, the report was sent to the Vatican which then issued its recommendations.
He said, as Bishop, he tried to deal objectively with a difficult situation.
“The church has a process, when a complaint is made there is a preliminary investigation with the results going to a review board,” he pointed out, adding, “It’s not one of those pleasant things to deal with…but in the process you have to deal with such situations objectively with compassion and love. The integrity of people must be maintained the church tries as best as possible not to cover these things and be as transparent as possible.”
Bishop Malzaire reiterated that Monsignor Thomas is still a priest and part of the clergy and has not been defrocked.
“Considering he’s retired; that was a factor. The Doctrine of Faith in Rome took into consideration [the fact that] the accused is over 75 plus; the statute of limitations has passed based on the laws of the church at that period in time and no additional complaints were made against the accused to say that he was a threat to minors,” the Bishop further explained.
Meantime, the individual at the centre of the allegations against Monsignor Thomas, said she understands Rome’s decision.
She thanked her family, neighbors and friends who testified on her behalf and other Dominicans who supported her through what she described as a “harrowing experience.”
“I also want to thank the church who listened and carried out their duties unbiased and diligently… I am also thankful for the sincere apologies rendered to me and my family by the church through the Bishop of Roseau,” she said.
In his letter to the victim, Bishop Malzaire wrote, “On behalf of the Church in the Diocese of Roseau, I deeply regret the pain that this situation caused you and your family. I am conscious of the fact that it took tremendous courage and strength on your part to pursue this matter, especially as it concerned a member of your family. I pray that this will bring closure to the situation and that you and your family will be able to find the necessary healing and solace.”
He said as far he is concerned, this chapter is now closed.
“Both parties have been kept informed all the way while the process was ongoing. When the decision was taken they were informed, so that each party can move on,” Bishop Malzaire said.