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Feb 18, 2019

Belizean Priest Accused of Sexual Abuse in U.S.A.

Oliver Smalls

Sexual abuse allegations and scandal have rocked the Catholic Church and tonight a Belizean priest is one of forty-two clergymen who have “a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse” against a child. The list was published three days ago by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A and it includes Father Oliver Joseph Smalls who up to recently was the resident priest in Orange Walk Town. Since the allegations came to light, the Catholic Diocese here in the country and Bishop Lawrence Nicasio has removed Father Smalls from ministry and he will no longer serve in the public ministry. Father Smalls has denied the allegations, saying that a lie detector test he took years ago, proved his innocence. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Father Oliver Joseph Smalls, well-liked and respected, is considered a generally well-rounded man of the cloth by many who have come in contact with him or listened to one of his homilies. He has touched the lives of many throughout his years as a priest, but tonight the well-known priest is facing extreme public scrutiny and backlash. He is namedin a ‘List of all Clergy With Credible and Substantiated Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors’ and appears under the sub-heading, “Religious and Priests of Other Dioceses with allegations of abuse that occurred in the Catholic Diocese of Richmond”.  Updated February fifteenth, 2019, the list which includes forty-one other alleged abusers was published by Barry Knestout, Bishop of Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.   Bishop Knestout also published an accompanying letter in which he writes, ‘consistent with my promises of transparency and accountability, I am publishing a list of clergy that have a credible and substantiated claim of sexual abuse against a minor.’ From what the letter stated, alleged victim(s) of Father Smalls came forward as the diocese prepared the list. Convinced that the allegations are true, Bishop Knestout writes that ‘by publishing this list, we can help bring about healing to those who have experienced abuse in the Church and heighten the awareness of this tragic situation.’

Here at home, Bishop Lawrence Nicasio, says that Father Smalls has been removed from ministry and will no longer serve in public ministry in the Diocese of Belize City and Belmopan. Father Smalls has been told that the findings of the credible allegation of sexual abuse of minors have been forwarded to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which is mandated to address sex abuse cases, for further deposition. The Catholic Diocese here in Belize will continue to investigate this matter.

Father Smalls has retained the legal services of Myles and Banner Law firm in response to the statement of Bishop Nicasio. In a press release, his attorney Leeroy Banner says that the allegation of sexual abuse dates as far back as the 1970s, fifty years ago. Father Smalls, according to the statement, ‘vehemently denied and continues to deny the allegations’. Father Smalls, in order to prove his innocence, reportedly took a lie detector test which he passed. The release says that Father Smalls ‘was being truthful and that the allegation is baseless, and remains unproven.’

In the letter, Father Smalls directs his disappointment at Bishop Nicasio, saying that the Catholic Church in Belize is aware that the allegations remain unproven and have made no efforts to make any assertion otherwise. In fact, the statement from the Catholic Church stressed that the allegations are credible. The Richmond Diocese also says that the list is supported by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the allegations are credible and substantiated.

Father Smalls has been a man of the cloth for more than fifty years and has expressed his innocence through Facebook. He tells one person “it is not true and the truth will come out’, and that he is ‘innocent of these allegations’.

Sex abuse allegations and scandals against minors, particularly males; at the hands of priest around the world have plagued the Catholic Church for many years. Though Father Smalls has been removed from ministry here in Belize, what about other dioceses across the world? Sources who have known Father Smalls for many years said he left the country on Sunday and is not expected to return any time soon. According to his attorney, his travel is not related to the case. There are no known reports against Father Smalls in Belize.

A formal demand letter was addressed to Bishop Nicasio, demanding that the Church refrains from issuing ‘baseless publications’. Father Smalls is in the process of determining legal recourse to maintain his good name and serve in the public ministry in the Diocese. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

 

The first “credible and substantiated” incident of child sex abuse was reported to the Diocese in the 1950s, according to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. The most recent occurred in 1993. Bishop Nicasio is asking for prayers of all victims of sexual abuse in Belize. He says that the Catholic Diocese remains committed to the care, safety and protection of minors in schools and parishes. In 2009, Pastor Kevin Hederman who was posted in Belize for sometime was accused of sexually abuse in the early 1990s in the U.S.A.


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