Lafayette Diocese hit once again with allegations of abuse

July 30, 2014

The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.

The investigative, four-part series by Minnesota Public Radio delves into court documents tracing as far back as the 1980s, when the first reported priest sex abuse scandal put the Lafayette Diocese under the national spotlight. New information revealed in MPR’s report, however, shows one alleged child predator, the Rev. Gilbert Dutel, has remained with the Diocese, and currently serves as the pastor of St. Edmond Catholic Church in Lafayette.

According to MPR, Dutil’s alleged sexual abuse traces back to the 1970s, during his tenure as pastor of St. Theresa Church in Abbeville, and a case involving a young boy:

In the case of Dutel, the documents show, the allegations weren’t limited to young adults. Dutel had also been accused of sexually abusing a child. In an interview with a lawyer in 1992, the alleged victim said Dutel had abused him in the 1970s, starting when he was 9 years old.

Despite the allegations, Dutil, who is now 69 years old, has remained with the church, even receiving assignments to work with several elementary and high schools over the 22 years since the claims first surfaced, including a spot on the St. Thomas More Catholic High School’s board of directors, as well as a more than 10 year stint with the St. Peter and Paul Church in Scott. The church in Scott also operates as an elementary school, and in 2010 an anonymous donor who paid for the school’s playground requested it be named “Father Gil’s Playground” in honor of Dutil.

The new allegations prompted a July 21 statement issued by The Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests calling for Dutil’s immediate suspension.

Following up on MPR’s report, The Daily Advertiser reached out to the Lafayette Diocese, prompting this response from Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrel: “No new information exists that warrants any action by the Diocese. In the absence of any contrary information, Father Dutil remains a priest in good standing.”

The Advertiser’s inquiry also prompted an emailed response from Dutil: “Upon completion of the process, it found that the allegation was not credible and that I was innocent. I maintained my innocence then and I maintain my innocence now.

The process he’s referring to is an internal diocese investigation handled by former Bishop Harry Flynn.

Yet, Flynn, as well as his predecessor, Bishop Gerard Frey, have been criticized over the years for their handling of sex abuse allegations against the church, which typically consisted of just transferring the problem priests to other parishes.

The claims against Dutil have been around since 1987, according to a 1995 affidavit filed in federal court by Abbeville attorney Anthony Fontana Jr., who has represented a number of victims abused by priests. Fontana attempted to discuss the issue back in the 90s with Flynn, but the bishop’s only action was to transfer Dutil.

“Bishop Flynn justified his action on the basis of the drastic shortage of priests that the Diocese was facing and the fact that he was told that Father Dutel was cured,” writes Fontana.

For more on the church’s handling of sexual abuse allegations and its impact on Acadiana, read our April 2013 cover story “The One Who Got Away” here.

And check out MPR’s four-part series here.


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