By Carlisle Jno Baptiste
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROSEAU _ A longtime parish priest on Dominica who was accused of sexually abusing a girl in 1994 has been removed from the priesthood under a decree issued by the bishop for the eastern Caribbean island.
Msgr. Reginald LaFleur, a popular priest known as “Father Reggie” by parishioners in Grand Bay, was defrocked at the direction of the Congregation of the Faith in Rome, Bishop of Roseau Gabriel Malzaire said late Thursday.
The bishop said in an interview that it was a painful decision for him and the diocese.
“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,” Malzaire said.
LaFleur, 60, was placed on administrative leave in 2013 after a woman reported that she had been 12 years old when he touched her inappropriately on her “bottom and breast” while he served in Portsmouth. She made the accusations in a series of letters written to the bishop, who sent her to Trinidad and Tobago for counselling while the allegations were investigated.
LaFleur, who declined to participate in the church investigation, was represented in the proceedings by a clerical expert from outside the diocese. Results of the investigation were sent to the Vatican, which directed that he be removed from the priesthood, Malzaire said.
LaFleur, who was notified of the decision earlier this month, has 60 days to appeal but is not expected to do so. The priest has declined to discuss the allegations.
Dozens of parishioners have rallied in LaFleur’s defence, gathering outside their church to insist on his innocence and press for his return