Aug 14, 2014 1:08 AM by Jim Hummel
Abbeville attorney Tony Fontana made a name for himself representing priest sex abuse victims and their families. A lifelong catholic, Fontana says the lawsuits against the diocese shook the foundation of his church, but not his faith. Now he's showing support for the current Lafayette priest, whose name surfaced in the latest media reports on the scandal.
When the priest sex-abuse scandal was put back into the spotlight by an investigation by Minnesota Public Radio, so too was newly-discovered evidence, including an affidavit signed by Fontana back in 1995. The statement details what Fontana knew and when. In that affidavit, Fontana brought up a name never before mentioned in the scandal, Father Gilbert Dutel, the current priest at St. Edmond in Lafayette.
"The accusations, had nothing to do with children," said Fontana. "It had to do with young adults."
Dutel's name was also mentioned in a deposition by Bishop Gerard Frey in 1995. Frey said he never heard about any problems with Dutel concerning children, but there was one complaint concerning an adult. Frey said Dutel denied the accusation, and he was "transfered and sent somewhere for treatment."
However, in a 1992 deposition, a man claims Fr. Dutel sexually abused him. The alleged-victim also claimed abuse by two other priests: Fr. Lane Fontenot and Fr. David Primeaux. Fontenot and Primeaux are known child molesters.
"The one red flag in all of this," said Fontana. "If [the alleged-victim] is telling the truth about [Fontenot and Primeaux], why would he tell a lie, or make up a story about Gil?
According to the Diocese of Lafayette, when the allegations first surfaced in the 1990's against Fr. Dutel, the Diocese investigated and found no truth to the allegations. You can read their statement here.
The diocese and Bishop Michael Jarrell continue to support Fr. Dutel. Bishop Jarrell was even in attendance as Fr. Dutel celebrated mass the first Sunday after the allegations re-surfaced. Video here.
"Let me assure you, that I've not been a threat to young people in this parish or any other parish in which I served as a priest, or anywhere else," Fr. Dutel said before getting a standing ovation from his congregation.
"I don't know that he ever posed a risk to children," said Fontana. "If Gil has led a good life, a good church life, has never had another complaint, then I don't see that there is any reason to have to take him out right now or to move him or to do whatever."