Da's Report Details Allegations against New Bedford Priest; Attorney Calls It "Mistaken Identity"
By Kiernan Dunlop
December 29, 2020
NEW BEDFORD — An investigative report from the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office and Daniel Lacroix’s attorney have shed some light on sexual misconduct allegations against an area priest who was permanently removed from the ministry in November.
In a letter that was read during a Mass at Lacroix’s former parish, St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Illinois Street, Diocese of Fall River Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha said allegations against Lacroix were determined to be credible by a ministerial review board.
In a statement Thursday, the diocese said Lacroix was removed "because of conduct that is inconsistent with standards of ministerial behavior and in direct violation of the Code of Conduct for priests in the Fall River Diocese and the U.S. Bishops' Charter for The Protection of Children and Young People."
Da Cunha made the decision to remove Lacroix from ministry himself after his own review of the evidence revealed in an investigation of the allegations, according to the diocese.
Lacroix, 61, has denied the allegations of misconduct since he was placed on administrative leave in November 2019, while the allegations were investigated.
In 2019, Lacroix was named co-pastor at three North End churches: St. Joseph-St. Therese, St. Mary, and Our Lady of Fatima Parishes. St. Mary, where Lacroix had been serving as a pastor since 2017, has an associated school, All Saints Catholic School, which serves students in preschool through grade 8.
Since the decision to remove Lacroix from ministry, his attorney, Philip Beauregard of the Law Offices of Beauregard, Burke & Franco, said he is making it known to the bishop on behalf of his client that there’s a serious claim of denial of “Father Lacroix’s rights to his livelihood and compensation that he would otherwise have as a priest or retired priest.”
The DA’s investigative report of the allegations, obtained by The Standard-Times, is heavily redacted due to a statute that requires the confidentiality of all reports to the police of sexual assaults and attempts to commit such offenses, according to the DA’s office.
While the report was redacted, Beauregard filled in some details stating that Lacroix was acting as a camp counselor while he was in the seminary, at what Beauregard believed was the now closed St. Vincent De Paul camp in Westport.
Beauregard said the individual that made the allegations was a camper.
As far as any relationship between the two, Beauregard said it was nothing other than that of a camp counselor and camper.
The diocese has not confirmed that the alleged abuse occurred at the camp.
The DA’s report states that investigators attempted to find the suspect’s place of residence but, “was unable to locate any record for the time between the time of abuse in the summer of 1985 and September 1988 (time of ordination and the beginning of residential records). It is believed that [redacted] was in seminary during this time.”
The report also notes that the victim was born in 1970, “which would have made the last incident(s) in approximately 1991 or 1992.”
Based on the dates in the report Lacroix would have been 26 years old when the alleged abuse started and 32 or 33 years old at the time of the last incident; the victim would have been 15 years old when the alleged abuse started, and 21 or 22 years old at the time of the last incident.
The report further expanded on the relationship between the victim and suspect, stating, “[redacted] pointed out that he had co-signed an auto loan for [redacted] in 1993 after [redacted] parents were unable to co-sign. According to [redacted], [redacted] defaulted on the loan causing [redacted] to pay $3,000.00 to pay the car off.”
After being removed from ministry in November, Lacroix told The Standard-Times, “I think it was possibly a case of mistaken identity; these are things [that happened] 30 some-odd years ago ... Do you remember over 30 years ago and what was said and done?”
Since the unredacted portion of the report suggests Lacroix knew the victim for several years and co-signed a loan for him, The Standard-Times asked Lacroix’s attorney if the former priest is still claiming the allegations against him are a case of mistaken identity.
Beauregard said Lacroix's best explanation is still mistaken identity, and that there was another priest or seminarian that worked at the same camp, “who has since been alleged and found to have committed sexual misconduct and floated away from the priesthood and area.”
The attorney did not name the priest and The Standard-Times did not find references to the St. Vincent De Paul camp and misconduct.
Beauregard went on to say that allegations against Lacroix were investigated in 2006 and 2014 by a diocesan investigator, Arlene McNamee, and found not to be credible.
He described the matter as “closed,” but “all of sudden five years later [the allegations] are being [called] ‘credible’ for unknown reasons.”
The diocese, which did not confirm that McNamee already investigated the allegations, said the decision to further investigate the allegations followed an external review of all priestly personnel files in the diocese and the receipt of additional information.
The ministerial review board deemed the allegations credible following an investigation conducted by an outside expert hired by the diocese to investigate the allegations against Lacroix, according to the diocese. The review board consists of primarily laypersons, with expertise in law, law enforcement, health care, mental health treatment, and ministry.
When asked about Lacroix co-signing an auto-loan for the victim, Beauregard said he hasn’t gotten into that kind of detail with his client, and he’s just dealing with the present situation — Lacroix's suspension in 2019 and termination in 2020.
Referring to his own personal history, Beauregard said if he went back and looked at the number of people that co-signed loans for him when he was younger, he could produce a dozen or so different people.
Beauregard called the effect of Lacroix’s termination and the public announcement of "credible" allegations against him devastating to Lacroix’s reputation and personal life.
The attorney questioned why the announcements of Lacroix’s removal from ministry didn’t include that Lacroix strongly denies any sexual misconduct on his part and that Lacroix offered to partake in a lie detector test.
The report confirms that the suspect offered to take a polygraph test, but does not specify if one was ever administered.
The report details an email exchange between the victim and the suspect.
Beauregard said, referring to the emails, that his client “thought it best that he not be out socially with a male to male married couple.”
The exchange related to the victim’s marriage, in addition to the priest not officiating a funeral at the victim’s request, according to what appears the be the suspect in the redacted report, “upset [redacted] because several months later [redacted] contacted the Diocese and alleged that [redacted] made him uncomfortable and that their friendship had romantic overtones.”
The report states that after reading the email exchange, investigator Arthur Brillon questioned the depth of their relationship.
Beauregard said Lacroix has not just been subject to a review locally, but also a review in Rome under canonical law. Vatican City is home to the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
The diocese did not confirm that Lacroix is under review by the Vatican.
Bristol County District Attorney spokesperson Gregg Miliote said in an email when Lacroix was first removed from ministry, "Our office did receive and thoroughly review this matter. However, we were unable to bring any criminal charges as the statute of limitations had expired."