11 February 2012 (must be a typo – today is 09 Feb)By Bishop Anthony B. Taylor
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor issued a letter Jan. 31 to update Catholics in Arkansas on the removal of Father Laurent Demets, FSSP. The Diocese of Little Rock announced Nov. 14 that Father Demets was removed as the founding chaplain of the St. Pio de Pietrelcina Latin Mass Community in Cherokee Village after credible allegation of suspected child abuse — slapping a child — was made. The priest of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter first served at St. John the Baptist Latin Mass Community in North Little Rock in 2007.
As bishop of the Diocese of Little Rock, I take seriously my responsibility to shepherd and protect the flock entrusted to my care. One of my obligations upon receiving credible allegations of misconduct on the part of Church employees and volunteers is to comply with the requirements of Church law and the laws of the state of Arkansas regarding how these cases should be handled.
The reporting mandate of Arkansas law for suspected mistreatment of minors requires us to report not only cases of sexual abuse, but also cases of physical mistreatment –such as incidents in which a child is believed to have been hit or slapped by an adult. The civil investigation to substantiate such cases depends in part on the willingness of the alleged victim and any witnesses to cooperate.
Church law requires that the diocese conduct its own investigation of credibly alleged incidents, following the procedures specified in our policy for handling such cases, including:
1. Automatic temporary suspension of the subject of an allegation from Church ministry pending the outcome of the civil and ecclesiastical investigations,
2. Public announcement that an allegation has been received, naming the subject of the allegation and the nature of the incident, asking any who have information to come forward — including other possible victims, if there are any.
In cases where the allegation is not sustained, this fact should be announced and steps be taken to repair the damage inflicted by this process. In the event that the civil and ecclesiastical investigations reach differing conclusions due to the higher standards of conduct demanded of Church employees and volunteers, this too should be noted — hence this letter.
On Nov. 7, 2011, a credible allegation of having slapped a child was lodged against Rev. Laurent Demets, FSSP, regarding an incident alleged to have occurred at St. Michael Catholic Church in Cherokee Village. At that time we complied with the reporting requirements of the state of Arkansas and implemented the procedures of the Diocese of Little Rock for handling such allegations. On Nov. 9, 2011, I suspended Father Demets’ faculties to function as a priest pending completion of the civil and ecclesiastical investigations. I also made the required announcement regarding these allegations in a memo to the priests of the Diocese of Little Rock, which was also published in Arkansas Catholic and announced in the parishes where Father Demets had been serving.
1. Substantiated in Church law: According to the safe environment policies of the Diocese of Little Rock, striking a child is never permitted, even when not inflicted in anger. For instance, corporal punishment is not permitted in Catholic schools. On Nov. 9, 2011, Father Demets admitted that he had indeed slapped the child in question. So the allegation must be considered ‘substantiated’ for purposes of Church law.
2. Unsubstantiated in civil law: On Dec. 13, 2011, the Arkansas Department of Human Services concluded its investigation and informed Father Demets that “because the allegations were not supported by a preponderance of evidence, the allegation has been determined unsubstantiated” for purposes of civil law and they assured him that his name would not be placed in the Child Mistreatment Central Registry of Arkansas.
Father Demets’ community has decided that whatever the outcome of the investigations, they do not intend to re-assign him to serve in Arkansas, so the issue of under what conditions I might restore to him the faculties of the Diocese of Little Rock does not arise. Outside entities inquiring about Father Demets future suitability for ministry will be provided with the information contained in this letter.
I apologize for the delay in disseminating this information. I was out of state from Jan. 2-18 and the report of the Arkansas DHS was only received by my office on Jan. 4, 2012.
Sincerely in Christ,
+Anthony B. Taylor
Bishop of Little Rock