Jarrell May Ask Review Board for Advice on 1992 Abuse Allegation
By Claire Taylor
July 31, 2014
|Bishop Michael Jarrell, Diocese of Lafayette, in October 2013. Jarrell may request an opinion from lay review board in earlier accusations.|
Bishop Michael Jarrell may ask a confidential review board to advise him with regard to sexual abuse allegations made in 1992 against a priest still ministering in Lafayette.
But Jarrell, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, doesn't plan on re-opening an investigation into the claims made by a 26-year-old man in 1992 against the Rev. Gilbert Dutel, who is pastor at St. Edmond Catholic Church.
The Daily Advertiser submitted questions to Jarrell on Wednesday, and Thursday via email to Monsignor Richard Greene, the diocese's media liaison, after learning about the 1992 accusations.
In a sworn statement, the accuser said that when he was a boy in Vermilion Parish Dutel was a family friend and priest who abused him over several years. He also accused two other priests of molestation, one of whom was convicted of molestation in Washington state and the other who admitted to abusing children and later committed suicide in Virginia in 2012 when some of his victims confronted his wife about his past.
Dutel and the diocese on Wednesday said the allegations were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated.
In response to The Advertiser's questions, Greene said retired Bishop Harry Flynn conducted the investigation in 1992. Current leaders at the diocese don't know who or if anyone else was involved in the investigation, but "to the best of our knowledge the police were not involved," he said.
There's no record that Flynn or other investigators met with the alleged victim in the case, Greene wrote.
"We have no record" of any meeting, he said.
In fact, there doesn't appear to be much about the case at the diocese.
"There is very little in the file concerning the investigation," Greene wrote.
Nor was there a report written at the conclusion of the investigation, he said.
Monsignor Curtis Mallet, vicar general of the Diocese of Lafayette, spoke with Flynn by telephone about the investigation, Greene said. He did not provide details.
"In the absence of any new information, Bishop Jarrell does not intend to re-open the investigation," Greene said. "However he may seek a review by the Review Board in keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
The charter was approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2005 in the wake of sex abuse scandals in the church. The charter says each diocese must have a review board with a majority of its members being lay people not employed by the diocese "that functions as a confidential consultative body to the bishop."
The review board will advise the bishop "in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of a cleric's suitability for ministry," the charter states.
"It is very likely we will use that process," Greene wrote.
Abbeville attorney Anthony Fontana Jr., who handled lawsuits against the diocese by the victims of priests, questioned how Jarrell can say there isn't any credible evidence against Dutel.
Flynn told Fontana in the mid-1980s that Dutel was sent to treatment, Fontana said. When he heard Dutel finished the treatment and Flynn said he would be returned to a church parish, Fontana asked how he could do that.
"He said, 'Because they told me he was cured,'" Fontana said Thursday. "Do you think if there was no credible evidence he would have told me he was cured? There's no credible evidence yet they're going to send him to treatments?"
Dutel's personnel file should contain documents that he was sent off for treatment and why, he said.
Greene told The Advertiser that Dutel "has never been sent by the diocese for treatment for pedophilia."
Dutel also was accused in the past of making sexual advances toward adult males, Fontana said in an April interview with Minnesota Public Radio as part of a four-part investigation into priest sex abuse and coverups by Catholic bishops, including Flynn, who was transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis from Lafayette.
Dutel did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday.