The Catholic Diocese of Lafayette says a 1992 investigation cleared the Rev. Gilbert Dutel of pedophilia allegations, yet when asked to produce those records, church officials came up empty-handed.
The Catholic Diocese of Lafayette points to a 1992 investigation clearing the Rev. Gilbert Dutel of pedophilia allegations as the reason the priest remains active in the church, yet on Thursday, church officials said they were unable to locate any records proving their claim.
The Rev. Gilbert Dutel of St. Edmonds Catholic Church in Lafayette
The allegations against Dutel - who's currently ministering at St. Edmonds Catholic Church in Lafayette - resurfaced recently with the unsealing of federal court documents and an investigative, four-part news series by Minnesota Public Radio, showing that the priest was alleged to have molested a young boy in the mid- to late-1970s, prompting an investigation by now retired Bishop Harry Flynn in 1992.
Yet, according to this report from The Daily Advertiser, the diocese responded Thursday to the paper's request for information pertaining to the 1992 investigation, including the name of who handled the inquiry as well as the contents of Dutel's file.
The diocese responded through media liaison Monsignor Richard Greene, who tells the Advertiser that it appears the investigation was handled solely by the former bishop, adding that "to the best of our knowledge the police were not involved."
"We have no record," adds Greene, of any meeting between Flynn and Dutel's alleged victim, whose name was redacted from court records.
What's even more troubling - especially considering the diocese's decision to back Dutel's innocence - is that according to Greene, the investigative file contains hardly any information at all. Added to that, Greene also says the current head of the diocese, Bishop Michael Jarrell, has no intentions of reopening an investigation into Dutel.
"There is very little in the file concerning the investigation," Greene tells the Advertiser, adding "In the absence of any new information, Bishop Jarrell does not intend to re-open the investigation. However he may seek a review by the Review Board in keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
The charter - a response to widespread sexual abuse claims against the church drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2005 - requires each diocese to establish a review board, comprised of a majority of lay people charged with operating as a "confidential consultative body to the bishop," that will assist "in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of a cleric's suitability for ministry."
According to Greene, that's probably how the diocese will handle Dutel's situation, though it's unclear when, or if, this will happen.
One interesting point raised by Abbeville attorney Anthony Fontana Jr., who has represented a number of sexual abuse victims in lawsuits against the diocese, comes from a conversation in the mid-1980s with the former bishop who investigated Dutel.
Fontana tells the Advertiser that he was told by Flynn that Dutel had undergone treatment for pedophilia and was "cured." That's the reason, Flynn gave for Dutel's continued ministery for the church.
"Do you think if there was no credible evidence he would have told me he was cured?" Fontana asks. "There's no credible evidence yet they're going to send him to treatments?"
Based on Flynn's comments to Fontana back in the 80s, it would make sense, says the Abbeville attorney, that the file on Dutel would include information about his treatment. Yet in contrast to Fontana's recollection, the diocese's media liaison claims the priest "has never been sent by the diocese for treatment for pedophilia."
Dutel, according to an interview between Fontana and Minnesota Public Radio, was also accused of making sexual advances toward several grown men. It's also worth noting that Dutel's name appears on BishopAccountability.org - a database of priests publicly accused of sexual abuse, which you can access by clicking here.
For more on this story, go here.
And here's the investigative series by Minnesota Public Radio.