Of three accused priests, one commits suicide, second admits molestation

By Claire Taylor
July 30, 2014

On June 15, 1992, a 26-year-old man provided a legal statement accusing three Diocese of Lafayette priests of sexual misconduct against him in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of those priests, Ronald Lane "Jean Paul" Fontenot, pleaded guilty and was convicted in 1986 of statutory rape in Spokane, Washington, where he was transferred for counseling after he was placed on leave in Lafayette in 1983 when a civil lawsuit was filed.

A second priest, David Primeaux, admitted in a 1984 psychological evaluation that he started abusing children in 1980 at St. Benedict in Covington. The Diocese settled a lawsuit in 2000 in which Primeaux allegedly admitted molesting a boy while serving at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Milton in the early 1980s.

Primeaux left the priesthood in 1985 and later got married. When some of his victims confronted the wife of the priest-turned-professor in Virginia in December 2012, he committed suicide.

The final priest accused by the young man is the Rev. Gilbert Dutel, who today serves as pastor of St. Edmond Catholic Church in Lafayette.

The 1992 victim's statement and a 1995 affidavit by Abbeville attorney Anthony Fontana Jr. alleging sexual misconduct by Dutel were included in a recent investigation by Minnesota Public Radio.

Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell issued a statement to The Daily Advertiser on Tuesday saying, "Many years ago, unproven allegations were made about Father Gilbert Dutel. An investigation took place back then which considered the totality of the facts available. No new information exists that warrants any action by the Diocese. In the absence of any contrary information, Father Dutel remains a priest in good standing in the Diocese of Lafayette."

Dutel also issued a statement Tuesday: "The diocese, under Bishop Harry Flynn at the time, examined the claim. Upon completion of the process, it was found that the allegation was not credible and that I was innocent. I maintained my innocence then and I maintain my innocence now!"

In response to a series of questions regarding Dutel and any investigation that may have been conducted by the Diocese, the Bishop's media liaison, Monsignor Richard Greene, said via e-mail Tuesday evening that he would discuss the questions with Jarrell on Wednesday. Greene has not responded to repeated information requests made Wednesday.

The young man's 1992 statement claims Dutel, a family friend and priest in Abbeville, was the first priest to molest him after the boy confided in him details about being physically and sexually abused by his older brother.

The young man claimed most of the sexual encounters involving Dutel occurred when he was between 9 and 11 years old, in the mid-1970s. The last, when he was entering ninth grade, occurred at the church rectory, he said.

Primeaux was the second priest the young man said molested him when he became parish priest in Milton.

"Father Primeaux was relatively young compared to any priest we had had in our parish before," he said. "And he was a kid's kind of priest, you know what I mean?"

The young man, an altar boy whose mother was active in the church, said he and Primeaux became friends, playing tennis and sailing in the priest's boat. Primeaux taught him how to drive a standard transmission car and let the boy drive his sports car, he said. He loved it so much, his parents bought him an identical car.

One day at the rectory the two worked until nighttime on the boy's car, shared a pizza and decided he would spend the night.

"That night is when it first started and then after that it was just, I guess what you would think, sexual harassment after that," he said.

Later, the young man — who said he was homosexual — met Fontenot, who was Primeaux's friend. The two priests would go the the boy's house for dinner or they'd go sailing together, he said. Once, when he was 15 or 16, both priests tried to have sex with him on the sailboat, he claimed.


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