If a complaint against Rev. George Smith was serious enough to have a Roman Catholic priest removed from his duties on P.E.I., the diocese in Newfoundland has the responsibility to report the allegation to police, says an RCMP sergeant.
Smith, a priest at St. Malachy’s Parish in Kinkora, has been removed from his duties following an allegation of abuse originating in Newfoundland and Labrador more than 20 years ago. Smith is reported to be visiting friends out of province.
Rt. Rev. Richard Grecco, bishop of the Diocese of Charlottetown, confirmed Tuesday that he received a call from the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador about an allegation of abuse about Smith.
Smith served in Deer Lake, N.L., from 1986-91, and was transferred to P.E.I. in 1994. The incident is alleged to have taken place during Smith’s time in Deer Lake.
RCMP Sgt. Jacques Morneau, commander of the Deer Lake detachment, told The Guardian Wednesday that no allegations against Smith have been brought to the police.
“I’m tempted to call but it’s not our policy to go looking for complaints,’’ said Morneau.
“The onus is on them (the Catholic Church) to report this to us.’’
New protocols approved by Grecco this spring require the immediate removal of any diocesan cleric, church official or lay volunteer after a criminal allegation has been made.
Bishop Douglas Crosby, the bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador, told The Guardian Wednesday that he fielded the call from the alleged victim earlier this month.
He says the man told him he had once revealed the incident to another, unnamed priest more than a decade ago.
He said it was one allegation of inappropriate touching.
Crosby said he urged the complainant to file a report with a bishop’s delegate who is obligated under church policy to respond to any such complaint with a committee.
“The process now is to follow through with his story which I think he (alleged victim) is writing and submitting to the committee,’’ he said.
Crosby said if the allegation of abuse is proven to have taken place, Smith could be removed permanently from the priesthood and police could be notified.
“I’m saying that it’s in their (the committee’s) hands,’’ he said.
Morneau, however, sees no cause for the diocese to delay bringing the allegation to the police.
“They (priests) are people in a position of trust,’’ he said. “They (the diocese) have to report this to us.’’
Crosby says if the alleged victim wants the police involved, he can go to them himself.
Crosby says his diocese is reeling from the allegation that has left Smith in a state of limbo.
“It’s shock of course and sadness and frustration,’’ he said.
“We always figure you are getting over these things then there is another one.’’
He says Rev. Desmond McGrath, a priest who had been serving the Diocese of Corner Brook and Labrador, committed suicide last summer after he was charged with sexually abusing a boy in western Newfoundland decades ago.
Crosby says his diocese has adopted a “responsible ministry policy’’ and is currently in the process of getting police checks done for everybody from the bishop on down to volunteers.