The 60-year-old priest was put on administrative leave almost two years after a woman alleged that he touched her inappropriately on her “bottom and breast” and made “sweet eyes” at her 19 years ago when she was a 12-year-old parishioner. The woman made the accusations against Lafleur in a series of letters to Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, the head of Dominica’s diocese.
Malzaire had sent the accuser to Trinidad & Tobago for counseling as a local church panel investigated her allegations.
In a statement, Bishop Malzaire stated, “You are aware of the allegations that were brought against Msgr Reginald LaFleur almost two years ago. After a Diocesan preliminary investigation, the case was forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which has exclusive competence in these matters. The Congregation having reviewed the case authorized the Diocesan Bishop to proceed with an Administrative Penal Process.”
He continued, “The accused cleric was duly informed of this process and invited to take part by leading a defense either personally or through his advocate. Two canonists from outside the Diocese were invited as assessors of the evidence gathered. Because the accused cleric had not answered to the invitation to participate in the process, and in an attempt to preserve the right of defense, another canonist from outside the Diocese was invited to lead a defense on behalf of the accused cleric.”
“After forwarding the judgment of the assessors and the canonist who led the defense on behalf of the accused to Rome the Congregation of the Faith authorized that the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state should be imposed on the accused cleric. The accused cleric was informed of the decision and the imposed penalty on November 6, 2014. He was also informed that he had 60 days in which to appeal the decision to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.”
Bishop Malzaire in an interview said the matter was “difficult” for him and has caused him and the church “much pain.”
“I am sure that one will appreciate that this is one of the most difficult things that I have ever had to do in my life as a Bishop and priest. I have always thought that the real key to leadership is decision making and some times and sometimes, decisions are very difficult and very lonely experience especially in such a situation where nobody want to be in such a situation where a brother comes to such space in his life.”
Malzaire stated that, “I would also say that it is one of the most excruciating pains that I have gone through in my life and it still remains so because, it is something that affects individuals, communities also the church locally and regionally. I always refer to the text of St. Paul in 1st Corinthians when he says when one part of the body is hurt, the whole body is hurt. So anything that happens in a negative way in the church it affects everybody. There is no victory in that, there is no joy, and it’s only pain. We know how much universally the church has been hurt in matters of that sort and the reasons why the church is taking the stance in matters of that situation. So any and every time it happens in any quarter it is painful so there is really no joy in the matter.”
Reginald La Fleur holds a Doctorate in Ministry (DMin) from The Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.