The Diocese of Lafayette disclosed Monday it had received a sexual assault allegation against a priest nearly a quarter-century ago but only removed the priest from active ministry this past weekend after a review board determined the complaint had "the semblance of truth."
Monsignor Robie Robichaux is accused of abusing a teenage girl between 1979 and 1981, when the victim was 16 or 17 years old. Bishop Douglas Deshotel announced at a Monday news conference that Robichaux had been placed on administrative leave but refused to take questions from reporters. He did not say what action any of his predecessors took, if any, when the allegation was first made two dozen years ago.
When Louisiana’s five Catholic bishops met last week in Lafayette for their regular quarterly meeting, there was no need to consult an agenda.
Deshotel said Robichaux is the head of the diocesan marriage tribunal, a church court, and Robichaux is also listed as chancellor on the website of Sts. Leo and Seton Catholic School in Lafayette. Deshotel did not mention Robichaux's position at the school and diocesan officials did not respond to further questions Monday afternoon.
The allegation was first made in 1994 and in 2004 the victim requested in a notarized statement that Robichaux be removed from the ministry based on church policies adopted in 2002, Deshotel said. Bishops adopted the policies that year in response to clergy sex-abuse cases nationwide.
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Deshotel said he was first made aware of the allegation on Sept. 18, then referred the matter to the church’s Sexual Abuse Review Board. It's not clear how Deshotel learned of the allegation, but he indicated the victim had once again come forward.
After receiving the notarized victim statement in 2004, former Bishop Michael Jarrell obtained a determination from the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that the victim was considered an adult under canon law at the time of the alleged abuse, Deshotel said. However, Deshotel added, the victim would have been considered a minor under state law.
It’s not clear what, if anything, Jarrell did after receiving the determination that the victim was considered an adult under canon law. Deshotel said Jarrell should have referred the matter the Layperson Sexual Abuse Review Board, but he did not elaborate as to why the former bishop did not.
It was not immediately clear what the allegations entail. Asked about next steps in the disciplinary process, including the length of Robichaux’s leave, a diocese spokeswoman said those details are still being worked out.
A receptionist in Robichaux’s office said he was not available and would not make any statements.
The allegation against Robichaux is third involving the Lafayette Diocese to surface publicly for the first time in the last four months. Michael Guidry, a former priest at St. Peter Church in St. Landry Parish, confessed in June to abusing a 16-year-old altar boy three years ago.
The family of a teenager accusing a Diocese of Lafayette priest of sexual assault filed a civil lawsuit Friday in state court, despite a threa…
The sweeping Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing allegations in six dioceses in that state revealed that one of the accused former priests, John Bostwick, was transferred to Lafayette in 1992, after Bostwick had refused to get church-ordered counseling.
Bostwick came at the invitation of former Bishop Harry Flynn, according to the Lafayette Diocese. Bostwick was removed in 1996 after an investigation of allegations he abused minors in Virginia in the early 1980s.
A former priest named this week in the sweeping Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in Catholic Church was transferred to the Dioce…
Meanwhile, allegations against Kenneth Morvant, the late pastor of St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville, resurfaced in the news last month when 11 plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit moved their case to the 15th Judicial District Court. The federal suit accused Morvant of repeatedly abusing the male victims in the 1970s.
The recent news has strengthened calls on Deshotel to release a list of names of priests who were accused of sexually abusing children in the 1980s. The diocese in 2004 disclosed that 123 accusers had received a total of $24.4 million in legal settlements related to allegations against 15 priests, but has never released the names of the priests.