Letter to the Editor: In defense of accused Greater New Bedford priest Daniel Lacroix

Standard-Times - SouthCoastToday [New Bedford MA]

February 27, 2021

By Paul Rego

Over the last two decades, the Roman Catholic Church has rightfully come under worldwide scrutiny for its mishandling of sexual misconduct by its clergy. As a lifelong and ardent Catholic, I applaud the Vatican’s recent efforts to right these wrongs, and I believe that however late these actions may be, our Church is finally on the path to healing. Still, I have no words to convey the sorrow I feel for the victims of sexual abuse, and it is particularly nauseating to me to think that some of these vile acts were committed within the confines of an institution as sacred and hallowed as the Roman Catholic Church.

I believe that when an individual is accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, the accuser’s allegations must be taken as seriously as those of a murder. All avenues must be explored in investigating the allegations, and all resources must be exhausted to uncover the truth. To treat sexual abuse allegations in any other way would represent an injustice to not only the victim, but to all victims of sexual abuse, past, present, and future.

Occasionally, though, the injustice surrounding a sexual misconduct allegation falls not upon the accuser, but on the accused. I understand that this sort of statement can be off-putting or triggering, and it is not intended to harm or diminish the countless victims of sexual abuse or misconduct. But as a society that listens to abuse victims with open ears, that seeks to help them with open hearts, we must then must lend those same ears, those same hearts, to the victims of erroneous character defamation.

Father Daniel Lacroix, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, formerly of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish in Seekonk, Massachusetts, is the victim of such character defamation. And his life and vocation have been upended as a result.

Some background: in 2014, Fr. Lacroix was accused of past misconduct, and the Fall River Diocese conducted an appropriate and thorough investigation surrounding the allegations. The investigators found no evidence of misconduct, and Fr. Lacroix was subsequently exonerated by the Diocese of any wrongdoings. Father Lacroix’s name and reputation now cleared, he continued to serve his parish with modesty, passion, and sanctity.

In 2019, however, for reasons not communicated to Father Lacroix, the case was reopened. Soon after, Father Lacroix was suspended by Bishop da Cunha from his duties and obligations as a Priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Later, in 2020, an investigation was instigated by the District Attorney’s office, and Father Lacroix cooperated fully with the investigators, just as he had in 2014. When Father Lacroix voluntarily offered to submit to a lie detector test, the District Attorney’s office told him it was “not necessary,” seemingly suggesting a prompt (and second) exoneration. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Father Lacroix remains suspended, his pay docked, his housing revoked, and his reputation destroyed. All without any semblance of reasonable cause or transparency by the Diocese.

I have known Father Lacroix for the better part of a decade. I have worked closely with him on various Church committees and have served as an Usher, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and Lector at his Masses while he served at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs. Over the years, I have come to know Father Lacroix as a kind, gentle, modest, devout follower of Christ. But the injustices enacted upon him by the Diocese are beginning to change him. I have watched Father Lacroix grow despondent. I have seen his faith wither. I am struck by the irony that this man of God has been ushered so viciously into purgatory by those he dedicated his life to serve.

Perhaps the reopening of Father Lacroix’s case was due to Massachusetts Attorney General Healey’s request for all past complaints of MA dioceses to be made part of the public record. Perhaps it was an ill-advised and cowardly action taken by Bishop da Cunha in the interest of public relations. Or maybe it was a clerical oversite within the complex and circuitous network of the Roman Catholic Church. The fact remains that no one, save the Diocese, knows why this case was reopened, because to date, the Diocese has not provided an explanation.

I think after everything Father Lacroix has given, and everything that has been taken from him, he is owed at least that.

Paul Rego lives in Seekonk.