Nfld. & Labrador

Priest allegations reported years ago: bishop

Allegations that led to the suspension of a Roman Catholic priest in Prince Edward Island were evidently reported to a church official more than a decade ago, a bishop said Wednesday.
Father George Smith, seen in 2002, has been removed from his duties at a Prince Edward Island church. ((CBC))

Allegations that led to the suspension of a Roman Catholic priest in Prince Edward Island were evidently reported to a church official more than a decade ago, a bishop said Wednesday.

Rev. George Smith, who was working at St. Malachy's Church in Kinkora, P.E.I., has been removed from his duties following a complaint about an incident alleged to have occurred while he worked in western Newfoundland.

The complainant made the report earlier this month about an alleged incident of sexual touching that occurred on church property in Deer Lake, N.L., where Smith was assigned as a parish priest between 1986 and 1991.

But Bishop Douglas Crosby, who fielded the man's phone call earlier this month, said the man told him he had once revealed the incident to another, unnamed priest.

"My understanding from his story [is] that he talked to a priest about it some years ago, and that there was some resolution at that time, that he considered to be satisfactory at the time," Crosby, the bishop of Corner Brook and Labrador, said in an interview Wednesday.

Bishop Douglas Crosby said he received a phone call from a man who reported that George Smith touched him inappropriately while he was a parish priest in Deer Lake, in western Newfoundland. ((CBC))

Crosby said the complainant did not provide details on when that conversation took place, but "I'd guess that it would be sometime in the late nineties."

Asked about how the matter was resolved, Crosby replied, "That I don't know."

Crosby said he understood that Raymond Lahey — who was the diocese's bishop at the time — was told about the incident.

Crosby said he asked the complainant to provide his name, but he refused.

P.E.I. Bishop Richard Grecco revealed Tuesday that Smith had been removed from his duties, and that he did not know the nature of the allegations.

Crosby said he phoned Grecco after speaking with the complainant, and "told him it was one allegation of inappropriate touching ... I informed the bishop, and I expect he did what he had to do."

To date, the police have not been called, Crosby said.

Asked complainant to file report

He said he urged the complainant to file a report with a bishop's delegate, who — according to church policy laid down after a series of sexual abuse scandals that rocked Newfoundland and Labrador's Roman Catholic Church in the 1980s and 1990s — responds to any such complaint with a committee.

Crosby said the police may then be notified.

"If the committee recommends that we do, we will," he said. As well, "This man is an older man ... if he wanted to go to the police, he could do that."

Crosby also said he spoke with Smith after the complaint was filed.

"He didn't deny it, he didn't accept it. You know, I think he was shocked," Crosby said.  

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