Lafayette diocese says it does not have report exonerating priest

Diocese of Lafayette officials said Thursday they do not have the investigative report they say exonerated the Rev. Gilbert Dutel after claims of sexual abuse were leveled at the priest in 1992.

Dutel, 69, the priest at St. Edmond Catholic Church in Lafayette since June 2010, was revealed in newly uncovered court documents as a priest suspected of abusing at least one youth in the mid- and late-1970s, a boy who said he was 9 or 10 when it started and an early teen when it stopped.

“There was an investigation by Bishop Harry Flynn in 1992,” Monsignor Richard Greene, media liaison for the diocese, said in an emailed response to questions posed by The Advocate.

“We have no record in the files, but apparently Bishop Flynn was satisfied that there was no credible allegation,” Greene said.

Others had suspicions that Dutel was an abuser.

According to documents contained in a long-sealed federal lawsuit, an insurance company labeled Dutel as an Acadiana priest the diocese “must have known” was sexually abusing youths. The document is part of the 1988 federal lawsuit the diocese filed against the diocese’s insurance broker, Arthur Gallagher.

Dutel’s name was only recently tied to the scandal that by 2002 had ousted 15 priests as pedophiles who sexually preyed on children within their church.

A series by Minnesota Public Radio concentrated on Flynn’s role in priest sex-abuse scandals in Louisiana and in Minnesota. The radio reporters used now-unsealed court documents that were part of the diocese-Arthur Gallagher lawsuit active from 1988 until 1998.

The lawsuit documents include a 10-page statement from a man who claimed he was 9 or 10 when Dutel allegedly began molesting him. The victim said Dutel was a family friend who was the priest at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Abbeville. He said Dutel molested him about eight times.

The court files also contain an affidavit by Abbeville lawyer Anthony Fontana identifying Dutel as a possible predator who, instead of being confronted, was assigned to another church.

The diocese on Thursday said it stood by Dutel, and it reissued its statements that claim the allegations are unproven.

“An investigation took place back then which considered the totality of the facts available,” the statement says. “No new information exists that warrants any action by the Diocese.”

In 2004, Bishop Michael Jarrell issued a report on the priest scandal that says from 1950 until 2002 there were 123 victims, who got more than $25 million in compensation and treatment. The report also says treatment for priests cost $463,000, and the diocese paid $286,000 in legal fees.

Of the total $26 million paid on the claims, $24.4 million was compensation for the victims, and $937,000 went for victim psychological treatments and counseling for priests

Of the $26 million paid out, 96 percent — $25,121,417 — was provided by the companies that insured the diocese. The diocese paid the remainder, $947,895. The 1988-1998 diocese-Arthur Gallagher case decided who would pay what.

Dutel remains pastor of St. Edmond and is a member of the Board of Pastors of St. Thomas More Catholic High School.

On Tuesday, Dutel issued his only statement to the press, telling The Lafayette Advertiser the claims had been investigated by the diocese 22 years ago. “Upon completion of the process, it found that the allegation was not credible and that I was innocent,” Dutel told the paper. “I maintained my innocence then, and I maintain my innocence now.”