Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston has responded to a Jamaica Observer article ‘Jamaican recounts abuse by priest, pregnancy and abortion’ of a then 17-year-old Denise Buchanan who alleges she was raped by then seminarian, Fr Paul Collier who continued to abuse her when he became a priest in her native Jamaica.
In a letter to the editor to the daily newspaper Friday, March 1, the Archbishop said that “side by side” with disclosures of wrongdoing by clergy, come false allegations, unfounded suspicion, and gossip, which can weaken effective ministry and cause irreparable personal harm.
Archbishop Richards stated that Fr Collier has acknowledged that before his entrance into the clerical state over 30 years ago he engaged in a “consensual relationship” with Buchanan, who was not a minor, which has caused her pain and brought the Church into disrepute.
“Fr Paul Collier has submitted a letter of resignation of his priesthood and asked pardon of all these [sic] hurt or scandal caused by him,” the Archbishop said.
He further added that Fr Collier did not disclose this liaison to the bishop or any official of the Archdiocese of Kingston. “They would not have known of it until the other party disclosed the events in recent times,” he said.
Once this happened, Archbishop Richards said, Fr Collier was suspended from ministry and all the required steps taken to report his conduct to the Vatican authorities.
The Archbishop further shared that The Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples has indicated that Fr Collier should no longer serve as a priest as his conduct has been “incompatible” with that office.
In the meantime, Archbishop Richards said Catholics must strongly support the principled reaction by Pope Francis and the Caribbean bishops to expose, prosecute and punish offenders, and to reach out and care for all who have been subjected to abuse of any kind.
“Beyond these priorities, we stand in support of our clergy who, like all of us, strive to live chaste lives and who, at great sacrifice, continue to give witness to God’s grace among us,” he said.