Priest Pleads Guilty to Touching a Minor

By Shawn Berry
Daily Gleaner
May 18, 2011


A Madawaska County priest has entered a guilty plea to a charge of touching a minor for a sexual purpose.

Rev. Joseph Numbi Phaku Mavambu was to undergo a preliminary hearing next week in Edmundston provincial court but instead opted to admit to the charge. He will be sentenced June 23.

Mavambu last served as the priest for Roman Catholic parishes in Riviere-Verte and Sainte-Anne de Madawaska. He was suspended from his functions last year when allegations surfaced.

Const. Julie Ryan, an investigator with the RCMP in northwestern New Brunswick, confirmed Tuesday that Mavambu had entered the plea.

"He pled guilty and admitted to the accusation," Ryan said Tuesday.

The Crown dropped two other charges against Mavambu, one of sexual invitation of a minor and another of sexual assault.

The three allegations originally made against the priest were alleged to have occurred between 2008 and 2010.

Msgr. Claude Champagne, the bishop for the Roman Catholic diocese of Edmundston who suspended Mavambu, said Tuesday he learned of the guilty plea through the media.

The bishop intends to consider church sanctions only after the justice process has concluded.

"We are awaiting the judge's decision. Later, we will see to the ecclesiastical side of it," the bishop said in an emailed statement.

Revisions made last year to church law extended the use of fast-track procedures to defrock members of the clergy who have committed sexual assault.

Champagne quickly moved to relieve the parish priest of his duties upon learning of the investigation in May 2010.

In a letter sent to parishioners shortly thereafter, Champagne advised followers of the suspension, stating he had acted upon "serious allegations" made against Mavambu.

"According to our protocols, once the bishop is informed, he must remove the person from their duties," the bishop said.

The removal from office wasn't meant to pre-judge the accused priest, he said.

Mavambu moved to northwestern New Brunswick in July 2000 from the diocese of Boma in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The court seized his passport last year.

He has been the parish priest for Riviere-Verte and Sainte-Anne de Madawaska since 2001.

On Monday, the Vatican told bishops worldwide that they must make it a priority to root out the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy.

Rome has told the bishops that they must assist civil authorities to end the abuse that has tarnished the church's reputation.

In a letter, every diocese was instructed to draw up its own guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local civil law. The procedures must be forwarded to the Vatican within a year for approval.

"Among the important responsibilities of the diocesan bishop in his task of assuring the common good of the faithful and, especially, the protection of children and of the young, is the duty he has to give an appropriate response to the cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics in his diocese," the letter said



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