Lafayette Diocese defends priest accused of pedophilia

by Patrick Flanagan

In reacting to the recently resurrected allegations of sexual abuse among local clergy, is the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette maintaining its old stance of protecting their own?

In reacting to the recently resurrected allegations of sexual abuse among local clergy, is the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette maintaining its old stance of protecting their own?

The Rev. Gilbert Dutel

In a four-part series released last week, Minnesota Public Radio - using a recently un-sealed federal lawsuit filed in 1988 by the Diocese of Lafayette against its insurance broker - has shed new light on the church's handling of a 1980s pedophilia scandal, including the name of a priest still working in the diocese.

That priest, according to the report, is the Rev. Gilbert Dutel of St. Edmond Catholic Church in Lafayette.

According to a statement filed in 1992 by Dutel's alleged victim, the sexual relationship with the local priest started in 1976. The victim was 9 or 10, and the alleged relationship would go on for another five or six years, eventually including two additional priests from the diocese.

"[Dutel] would just put his arms around me and he was, I guess, trying to be consoling, kind and gentle and then he just started playing with me and he unzipped my pants," claims the victim, a former altar boy who's name was redacted from the 1992 document recounting his first sexual encounter with Dutel in Vermilion Parish.

Upon entering his early teenage years, the victim claims that the relationship with Dutel gradually ended, but the sexual molestation continued from two other local priests, the Rev. David Primeaux and the Rev. Lane Fontenot.

"I went to church every day with my grandmother," he continues. "My mom was a trustee for the church, we were just real involved and had a lot of dealings with them."

The victim recounts an encounter while on a sailboat with Primeaux and Fontenot, in which the two priests came after him while out on the water. "It was just too much, two at once, it was just too much, and that time they both tried and that was pretty much the last dealings I had with them," he states.

Primeaux eventually left the priesthood after admitting to the molestation of 15 children. He married and became a college professor until a confrontation in 2012 with one of his past victims that ultimately led to his suicide - read more in our cover story "The One Who Got Away." Fontenot was suspended from the Lafayette Diocese in 1983, and after a transfer to Washington state, he would eventually spend a year in jail after pleading guilty to raping a 15-year-old boy.

Dutel, on the hand, despite the allegations, has never faced any repercussions from the church, and instead was allowed to work in settings involving a high school and elementary school, even having a playground named in his honor.

Yet, the allegations against Dutel have prompted calls for his suspension from national watchdog group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:

We urge the current bishop to take immediate action and suspend this cleric immediately. We urge Bishop Michael Jarrell to immediately oust Father Dutel and use [the diocese's] vast resources to beg anyone who saw, suspects or suffered crimes by Dutel to come forward, call police and start healing.

The Diocese of Lafayette, however, has so far stood by Dutel, pointing to an investigation conducted back in the 90s that allegedly cleared the priest of any wrongdoing.

In a statement issued to The Daily Advertiser, the diocese says:

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 with the Diocese of Lafayette.

The Advertiser responded by asking for a copy of the investigation and the name of who looked into the allegations for the church. According to the local paper, the diocese has yet to respond.

It's worth noting that Pope Francis, in May, made a "zero tolerance" declaration against clergy abusing children. That follows a 2002 resolution from church leaders during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, where they drafted the Charter for the Protection of Children, claiming a new "one strike and you're out" stance on pedophilia within its ranks.

In an interesting Facebook post reacting to the diocese's defense of Dutel, author Ray Mouton - whose "In God's House" details the 1980s pedophilia scandal that rocked Acadiana's - writes:

The remaining priest this man accused of abusing him celebrated mass on the altar of a Lafayette Church today. Diocesan spokesman, Rev. Richard Greene, told media that a thorough investigation had been conducted that cleared Fr. Dutel. When media requested that Rev. Green furnish the name of the person who conducted this "thorough investigation" and furnish the report of the investigation, Rev. Green stopped talking and ignored the requests.

That any issue at all exists relating to clergy sex abuse today in this diocese where the current crisis and scandal began 30 years ago should not be surprising to anyone who has followed the story for 30 years, for the story is unchanging, never ending.

The one thing clear about the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana is that Bishop Michael Charles Jarrell continues to shield the very identity of over a dozen sex abusing priests. Sometime after taking office in Lafayette, the bishop issued a statement that was prominently published the local daily newspaper wherein the bishop allegedly was telling the whole truth about the clergy abuse crisis in the Lafayette diocese.

In that statement, Bishop Jarrell admitted that there were over a dozen priests who had credible complaints of sex abuse made against them that the diocese paid out money to settle.

No diocese anywhere pays out huge sums of money to alleged victims of innocent priests, i.e. it is a certainty that the diocese was convinced of the guilt of these priests whose identity Bishop Jarrell continues to hide to this day)

In this supposedly detailed statement, Bishop Jarrell shielded the names of all of the criminal priests in the diocese except the notorious child sex abuser whose name is known worldwide, Fr. Gilbert Gauthe.

It is critically important for Catholic parents whose children may have been close to one of these perverted priests to know the identity of these men, for it might well explain things in the lives of their child or children whose lives were damaged or destroyed by one of these priests - things that until know have been unexplained - life problems like drug addiction, even the suicide of their child.

It is also critically important for the entire public to know the identity of these men whom Bishop Jarrell clearly states are child sex abusers while refusing to divulge their names, and incredibly important to know where these men are today and whether they are working with children.

It is certain none of these criminals (over a dozen perverted priests or former priests) are registered as being the sex offenders where they reside, for if Bishop Jarrell will not even divulge their names in a statement where he is allegedly telling the whole truth about the clergy abuse crisis in his diocese, there's no chance that the crimes of these men were ever reported to police by anyone in the Lafayette diocese.

Read more on this story here.