I promised some more info on the suspensions and investigations of two Filipino priest in the Diocese of Grand Falls, Newfoundland.
Here is some backgrounder
(1) I received word around mid-July 2014 that Fathers Richard Salas and Lloyd Lugtu had been suspended by the Bishop (Daniels) and were under investigation for sexual assault. The allegations are NOT historic.
(2) At this point in time, as far as I can ascertain and from what I hear the two priests arrived in the Grand falls Diocese sometime in 2010. That was when Archbishop William Currie was serving as both Bishop of Grand Falls and Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint John, Newfoundland. (It was in September 2010 that we had word Archbishop Currie had recycled convicted molester Father Michael Walsh into St. Brendan’s in Cottel Island, Bonavista Bay. After much upset in the small community Archbishop Currie finally relented and advised that Father Walsh would no longer grace the sanctuary of St. Brendan’s. More recently Archbishop Currie did announce the suspension of Father Dohey)
(3) A week ago parishioners at St. Joseph’s in Gander were informed that Father Salas had been suspended and is under investigation by the RCMP.
(4) And then, one full week later, this past weekend Father William Hearn, the Vicar General and Chancellor of the diocese travelled to and ‘said’ Mass at St Joseph’s & St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Port Union. At that time the small congregation was finally advised that their priest, Father Lugtue had been suspended and is currently under investigation by the RCMP.
Mass at Bonavista had been cancelled. Father Hearn did not travel to relate the news to those parishioners. True enough, the two churches are only a short 15 miles or so apart and those who wished to do so may have been able to drive to Port Union, however without doubt there would have been those who could not make the trip.
(5) Father Richard Salas, ordained in 2002, hailed from the Diocese of Sorsogan in the Philippines.
(6) Father Salas is listed in the index of the 2010 Canadian Catholic Church Directory (CCCD) at Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gander. He has been in charge of St. Joseph’s ever since. It seems he has been administrator of the parish for those years – the diocesan website shows him as such.
(7) Father Lloyd Lugtu, ordained in 1999, hailed from the Diocese of Tariac, also in the Philippines.
Although he is not listed in the index of the 2010 Canadian Catholic Church Directory I do find reference to Father Lugtu in July 2010 as the celebrant in a funeral conducted at Immaculate Conception Cathedral. It seems possible then that Father Lugtu was perhaps assisting at the Cathedral when he first arrived?
By 2011 Father Lugtu was listed as Parish Administrator at St. Joseph & St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Port Union. Newfoundland, with missions in Bonavista and Trinity. The rectory is situated in Port Union.
Father Lugtu is a canon lawyer. In that regard, since his arrival or shortly thereafter, Lugtu has been serving in various capacities on the Grand Falls Diocese Marriage Tribunal.
(8) As I said, in mid July of this year I received word that Father Salas and Lugtu had both been suspended and were under investigation by the RCMP. The allegations allegedly relate to sexual assault of a male.
(9) On Thursday 17 July I sent the following letter to Father William Houlahn. Father Houlahan was and is listed on the diocesan website as Vicar General and Chancellor:
Dear Father Houlahan
I am Sylvia MacEachern, the operator of Sylvia’s Site where I blog on the sex abuse scandal and betrayals of trust in the Roman Catholic Church in Canada. (http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/)
I have been told that Fathers Lloyd Lugtu and Richard Salas were suspended last month and that an RCMP investigation of both priests entailing sex assault of males is currently underway.
I am seeking clarification with the following questions:
(1) Are there allegations of sexual assault or sexual impropriety of some sort against one or both priests?
(2) Have the two priests in fact been suspended?
(3) Are the two priests still in the diocese?
Thanking you in advance for your assistance Father, I remain
One week passed. No response.
(10) On Thursday 24 July 2014 I called Father Houlahan.
Yes, he had received my email, but ““I’m not in any position to comment… I’m no longer the VG.” Father Houlahan, it turns out, had ceased his duties as VG and Chancellor about five months ago. His replacement is Father William Hearn.
(11) I called Father Hearn. I explained that I was seeking confirmation that both Father Richard Salas and Father Lloyd Lugtu had been suspended and were under investigation.
Father Hearn advised that it is not in his jurisdiction to confirm or deny at this point: “It’s a matter for the bishop to deal with these things. All I can do is refer you to him.”
I was told that Father Hearn would take my phone number, and he in turn would tell the bishop that I had called and give the bishop my number.
(12) And, on Thursday 24 July I tried calling the rectory in Port Union, hoping at the least to reach a secretary, or at best Father Lugtu.
But, an answering machine with a message, which in essence said that in the case of an emergency call this number.
In my mind this is an emergency. I called.
(13) Father Lugtu answered the phone.
I opened by asking if it was true that he is under investigation for a sexual assault. The immediate response was: “Who is this?”
I identified myself.
The rest of the conversation went something like this (S = Sylvia: FL = Father Lugtu):
S: I’ve heard you under invest: and you’ve been suspended
FL: Well I don’t know about that
S: Are you working right now?
FL: I’m on holidays.
FL: Where is this news coming from?
S: From people
S: I don’t reveal my sources.
FL: I’m shocked actually
S: So you’re not under investing by police?
S: And you’re not suspended?
FL: I don’t know about that.
S: You haven’t been suspended?
FL: No. I’m not suspended. I’m on holiday
FL: Who told you that? I need to know
S: Are you saying it’s a lie?
FL: I’d like to know who’s saying what
S: I heard both you and Father Salas were suspended and are under investigation?
FL: “Oh! I don’t know. I’m not aware of it
S: Do you deny you ever assaulted anyone?
FL: Ah. Do I need to answer that question, because I want to know who’s saying this?
FL: I don’t know, I’m not aware.
FL: I will talk to my superiors. I’m not aware
S: I sent email to diocese last week: I will call them as well
S: What date are you due back?
S: What date?
FL: Ah, I don’t know yet. I don’t have a fixed date. I’m on holidays, so probably 05 August
S: When did you go on holiday Father?
FL: 05 July
S: Do you plan to go home?
FL: Home is where?
S: The Phillippines
FL: No, I’m just here.
S: In Newfoundland?
FL: No, here, in Toronto
(14) By late afternoon the following day (25 July 2014) there was no call back from the bishop. I sent the following email to Bishop Robert Anthony Daniel:
As you are no doubt aware I have been trying for the past week to get confirmation that Fathers Lawrence Lugtu and Richard Salas have been suspended and are under investigation by the RCMP for allegations related to sexual misconduct.
In that regard I sent an email to Father William Houlahan last Thursday. (Father Houlihan is listed on the diocesan website as Vicar General and Chancellor)
Yesterday (Thursday) I contacted Father Houlahan by phone and was surprised to hear that he is no longer the Vicar General and Chancellor and has not held those positions for approximately the past five months. Father Houlihan gave me the name of his successor, Father Bill Hearn.
I contacted Father Hearn by phone yesterday. Father Hearn advised that it is not in his jurisdiction to confirm or deny these things. He took my phone number. My understanding was that he would speak to you and you in turn would phone me.
Would you please, your Excellency, confirm by phone or in writing that the two priests in question have been suspended and are currently under investigation by the RCMP.
Thanking you in advance for your assistance in this troublesome matter, I remain
[my phone number]
Bishop Daniels, a native of Windsor Ontario and former auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of London, Ontario, has yet to respond.
(15) On 05 August 2014 the news broke that Father Salas is suspended and under investigation, amd that after parishioners were told that Father Salas had been suspended
(16) This past weekend Father Hearn informed parishioners at St Joseph’s & St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Port Union that Father Lugtu is suspended and under investigation.
(17) (Attempts to get confirmation of the instigation from the RCMP detachments in Bonavista and Grand Falls failed)
Enough for now,