Feds Drop Inquiry of Arnaudville Priest
By William Johnson
April 8, 2005
Arnaudville — After more than eight months of investigation, the U.S. Justice Department has decided to drop its inquiry into the Rev. Jules Arceneaux, the popular pastor of St. Francis Regis Catholic Church.
In July, Arceneaux was placed on administrative leave by Bishop Michael Jarrell of the Lafayette Diocese, which oversees the Arnaudville church, pending the outcome of a federal investigation into alleged pornography discovered on a church computer.
"The U.S. attorney's office has issued a statement that they are not going to prosecute Jules Arceneaux. They say the case does not meet the government's prosecutable standards," said Attorney William L. Goode, who represents Arceneaux.
Goode said he had just finished talking to Arceneaux on the phone Thursday after hearing the news.
"He's delighted, to say the least," Goode said. "It's a great day. He's a wonderful man. I'm glad this is finally over."
Goode said Arceneaux hopes to return to his duties as a priest, though he is not sure where.
"Being in the church is sort of like being in the military. You go where they want you," Goode said.
Such celebration may be a bit premature.
"Now that the civil authorities have finished their investigation, the diocese is resuming its investigation according to canonical procedures," said Monsignor Richard Greene, spokesman for Bishop Jarrell.
Greene said the church had suspended its own investigation into the matter as soon as the U.S. attorney's office took an interest in the case.
"We did not want to interfere with their investigation," Greene said.
Greene said people should not infer the church investigation presumes any wrong doing on the part of Arceneaux. "We are just trying to be fair and complete."
Greene said that until the church investigation is complete, "Arceneaux remains on suspension from public ministry, which has been his recent status."
Parishioners in this small, heavily Catholic community first learned of Arceneaux's removal in a letter read at Mass in July.
That letter said FBI agents had seized the church's computer in response to an informant's tip.
A young parishioner would later come forward and claim he had placed the images on the computer, which was kept in an area open to the public.
Donald Washington with the U.S. Attorney's office in Lafayette, which handled the case, dismisses that contention.
"There is no truth to the allegation that the juvenile placed or even viewed any pornography on the computer. None of the types of images he said he saw even existed," Washington said.
Washington said an examination of the church computer revealed more than 100 pornographic images of young men.
He said, while the images appeared to depict teenagers, none of the images could be proven to involve a person 17 or younger.
"We won't be bringing any charges on what we have found. I expect the church may. The church has a policy against pornography of any kind," Washington said. "Under canon law, it has a lot more flexibility than we have."
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.