Vicar General Msgr Michel Francis has maintained that based on the articles of the Criminal Code of St Lucia (2004) which deals with disturbing a Minister of Religion during services, Fr Albert Smith was “within his rights” to admonish persons who were irreverent during a funeral service, as seen in a viral video on social media.
When contacted for comment, Msgr Francis told Catholic News that the confrontation was during the internment rites at the cemetery for Fr Albert’s nephew who died tragically in a vehicular accident. “The atmosphere, as you might imagine, would have been charged with emotions,” he said via email.
However, Msgr Francis explained that because the video clip was “so short”—51 seconds long— it did not include the “many attempts” by both Fr Ignatius Cetoute and Fr Smith to ask for silence. “What the video showed was the time he challenged the person(s) to be quiet,” he said.
In the video, Fr Albert is heard saying “The people who are not here to assist the prayers, you can go…The people who are here to disturb the prayers, you can leave…This is a Christian thing….” Fr Smith further continued, “…It is against the law of St Lucia to disturb any religious proceedings”.
Msgr Francis confirmed that the video went viral “that’s why you got it in Trinidad” and it was the subject of many of the radio and TV talk shows. He said that the majority of persons, he was told, and the talk show hosts have “supported” Fr Smith’s reaction.
He further added that in the absence of Archbishop Robert Rivas OP, as Vicar General of the Archdiocese, he wrote to the Commissioner of Police on the matter since it forms part of the Criminal Code 2004 and copied same to the Minister of Internal Affairs as well as the Prime Minister and the Archbishop.
The Criminal Code 2004 states that any person who behaves “irreverently” near any church, chapel, or other building for religious worship during divine service; behaves irreverently or indecently in or near any public burial ground during the burial of a dead body is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for one year.
Article 568 ‘Disturbing minister, etc., at celebration in public’ states “Any person who disturbs or molests any minister of religion while celebrating any religious rite or office in any public way or public place, or any other person, aiding, assisting, or attending at the celebration of such rite or office, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for one year.”