Thursday, May 27, 2010

Church, RCMP disagree over filing charges

Church, RCMP disagree over filing charges

The Western Star

Rev. George Smith served as priest of Deer Lake’s Immaculate Conception Parish between 1986 and 1991. — Star photo by Katherine Hudson

The Roman Catholic church will not automatically be going to police about the allegations of sexual abuse by one of its priests.

Corner Brook and Labrador Bishop Douglas Crosby said it is up to the complainant to decide if he wants to report the alleged abuse to the RCMP, since he is an adult.

He said the church is currently examining the allegation through a committee of professional lay people. The committee will take its lead from the complainant with regards to any recommendations it might make.

“It would depend on the recommendations that come forward from the committee if they would deem (reporting the allegations) to be appropriate ... the correct thing to do.

“I think we always take our lead from him. He’s old enough to do that if he wants to,” Crosby said.

Rev. George Smith was removed from his duties at a church in Prince Edward Island due to an allegation of sexual abuse dating back to when was in Deer Lake, Bishop Douglas Crosby confirmed Wednesday.

Rev. Smith served at Deer Lake’s Immaculate Conception Parish between 1986 and 1991. Crosby said the complainant came forward about 10 days ago, stating he was involved in an incident of sexual touching.

“I have asked him (the complainant) to talk in more detail to the bishop’s delegate, who we have assigned to this case,” said Crosby.

Crosby said he understands the complainant came forward with his story in the late 1990s, about 10 years after the alleged abuse.

He said was shocked, saddened and disappointed by the news.

Sgt. Jacques Morneau of the Deer Lake RCMP confirmed the police have not been contacted by church officials concerning the allegations. He said anything involving criminal offences should be reported.

“Unless we get a complaint, we can’t investigate,” Morneau said.

“That’s strange that they haven’t notified anybody yet, if it’s serious enough that they have to remove (someone) from the position. I can’t see them wanting to deal with this internally.”

Morneau offered reserved comment since details have not been disclosed to the RCMP.

“I don’t think they should leave it up to the complainant to come to us,” he said. “If they’re aware that a member of their organization has committed a criminal offence, (it) should be reported.”

Working with Smith
Patti Bouzanne, choirmaster of Immaculate Conception Parish in Deer Lake, worked with Smith during his time at the church between 1986 and 1991. She said Smith was easy to work with.

“He was a very gentle person,” Bouzanne said. “I had no concerns, no problems. I worked well with him. ... To me, he was just another priest who was in the parish. There have been several since I’ve been there.”

She said the parish welcomes a new priest every six years.

“When you’re a choir director you do have to work with the priest about what you’re going to be doing in church and for different functions,” she said.

Bouzanne said until she knows the facts, she won’t rush to judgment of Smith.

“There’s been so much of this going on and a lot of times, they find that it’s unwarranted,” said Bouzanne.

“Basically, when I see something like that in the paper, I say ‘OK, whatever.’

“I believe in the law, that you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty.”

Smith was retired until last year when he took the temporary position at St. Malachy’s Parish in Kinkora, P.E.I.

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