Letters to the Editor

We pray for the victim and Bishop Bennett

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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Dear Editor,

On Wednesday, March 13, 2019 the Jamaica Observer weekly edition of O-Wrap carried a title, 'Mandeville ex-bishop banned', and similarly ran a piece, 'Catholic church bans former Mandeville bishop accused for sexual harassment'.

As the present apostolic administrator for Mandeville, and also as the appointed administrator of the Diocese of Mandeville by the Pope immediately after Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ, resigned, I wish to state the following:

1. In July 2006 I was told by the apostolic nuncio to Jamaica at the time, the Most Rev Thomas Gullickson, that Bishop Gordon Bennett was resigning for health reasons. Indeed, the bishop had been battling depression and the residue of a stroke which had affected him deeply in many ways.

2. I was off the island when Bishop Bennett left Jamaica at the beginning of August 2006. I dealt with his sudden departure as any pastor would do, trying to help the people of Mandeville adjust to his sudden retirement — even if people in the inner circle of the diocese knew that he did not seem well, none of us had any idea that there were other motivating factors in his departure.

3. I learned — like everybody else when Archbishop Lori of Baltimore released his statement — that there were also other reasons linked to his departure, that of an unfortunate alleged case of sexual harassment of an adult.

4. As the former archbishop of Kingston and bishop of Montego Bay, and as the present apostolic administrator of Mandeville, I can only state how saddened and shocked we all are at learning of this event which was reported to have taken place 13 years ago. We are grieved that a man we knew to be a good man apparently is alleged to have engaged in such behaviour. Having known that his character had been deeply affected by his depression and stroke, one wonders how much this contributed to his actions.

5. I take time to reiterate that the Roman Catholic Church does not tolerate such acts with adults, but we remain hopeful in the face of human failure as Scripture says eloquently in Ezekiel 18:28, “ If the wicked turns away from all the sins that he has committed he shall surely live, he shall not die,” as indeed the Lord desires not that the sinner perishes but that he converts and comes back to the Lord. We pray thus for the victim who was a native of Baltimore and Bishop Bennett himself.

Most Rev Charles H Dufour, DD

Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston

Apostolic Administrator

Diocese of Mandeville

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