Shame on Grand Bay's Catholics
With much bewilderment, Dominicans last week witnessed a large number of Catholics of Grand Bay making a mockery of their church. With trumpets, drums and placards, the group of disgruntled parishioners was protesting the suspension of Parish Priest Father Reginald Lafleur from service at the Grand Bay church.
The incitement for the protestation was a decision by Bishop Gabriel Malzaire to act on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor, a 12 year-old girl. The incident that allegedly occurred about 19 years ago. Instead of supporting their Bishop, who initiated an investigation into the charge, the people of Grand Bay declared that their beloved priest was innocent. How they arrived at that conclusion, no one knows since the Church has made no such pronouncement. Apparently, the Catholics have placed more confidence in the word of their priest than in the judgement of the leaders of their church.
But based on the content of a number of letters that the accuser wrote to Bishop Malzaire that was disclosed by the press, one gets the impression that Bishop Malzaire felt that the charge warranted an inquiry. But before the process ended the accuser concluded that she was not being taken seriously and that the church was about to sweep the matter under the carpet. For instance, in a letter dated March 21, 2013, and titled Urgent Situation Update the accuser requested "a copy of the perpetrator's testimony for my preparation for future initiatives".
She also accused the church of "total injustice" to her as a victim who was urged by international appeal to come forward with this dark and dastardly episode".
In addition she maintained that "it was my innocent belief that the church was serious about the cleaning of the closet of these horrendous skeletons but I am now freaked into serious doubts. The perpetrator was issued a copy of my testimony for months in order to facilitate his defence whilst I am yet to see what his version of the story is. This is in direct contravention of fair play and due process. I am the victim here but I am willing to admit that the burden of proof rest with me especially since this episode has occurred nineteen years ago. Therefore, I am offering myself to be polygraph on this matter once the perpetrator also subjects himself to polygraph testing to this accusation".
She continued: "We must both put our credibility to the test rather than him conceal himself behind veils of social barriers whilst continuing to further destroy what is left of me, in my reputation and sanity. The reticence of the institution on this matter must be serving as support to him in bolstering his position and decision to continue his neurotic denial.
"I felt betrayed, abandoned and disappointed. I now recognize the problem as one not of evil individuals but an evil system and institution for it is the institution that urged victims to come forth and it is the same institution that is ensuring that prevailing conditions retard the process of reconciliation and recovery".
The accuser's statement brings to mind the observation of Rev. Andrew Greeley of Chicago who wrote in 1992, long before the Catholic priest paedophilia scandal erupted. Rev. Greeley wrote in the Chicago Sun Times that: "Parents complain first to the church and are rebuffed. Then they go to the police and are given the run-around. They return to the church and are told in effect that the church thinks their child is lying. Reluctantly, they sue. The church has forced itself again into an adversarial relationship with trusting and devout Catholic laity."
Remember that in 2002 the Boston Globe started an avalanche when it exposed the history of sexual abuse of youth in the Boston Catholic Church archdiocese and the officials who kept the information of the abusing priests from parishioners.
After the scandals mushroomed around the world, the Catholic Church introduced new protocols to deal with priests who abuse children; the Pope even declared a zero tolerance policy against that type of behaviour. Nevertheless, last week Catholics in Grand Bay buried their heads in the sand and declared that they are indifferent to the policy of their church which their Bishop was apparently implementing.
No one should get the impression that all priests and nuns are abusive. There are many priests and staunch Catholics who were abhorred by the behaviour of their fellow Catholics in Grand Bay. In the United States too, a group calling themselves Catholic Whistle-blowers, made up of nuns and priests say the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators. They claim they are motivated to make the church better and show the world that there are good priests and nuns in the church.
Father Lafleur, we must declare, is innocent until he has been proven guilty; but we abhor the view of some persons that the priest should not be investigated because some people in Grand Bay love him. In fact, since no one is above the law, at some point in this sordid affair, the police must get involved. As a law-abiding community, we have to ensure that all alleged victims of child abuse are treated fairly and with compassion.