1517, the priest and scholar Martin Luther nailed a piece of paper to a church door containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation. In a modern age, Luther’s 95 Theses would have been posted on the internet. And in a similar fashion, on February 13, 2019, the Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout, Bishop of Richmond posted a revolutionary letter with 42 priests who faced “credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors.” Father Oliver Smalls is one of 42 priests named in the “List of all Clergy With Credible and Substantiated Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors.” In Belize, Bishop Lawrence Nicascio promptly removed Father Smalls from the Ministry while a statement frorm the Chancery indicated Smalls will no longer serve in public ministry in that Diocese. The allegation was made in Virginia and the Bishop referred the case to the Vatican. As you are aware the education system is considered to be Church/State and we asked the Minister of Education about the clergy’s case and he said that the Roman Catholic Bishop made the right call to remove Smalls from service.
Honorable Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber Minister of Education: “ Well I believe that those issues are matters that the church needs to handle but in so far as many of our church leaders are involved as well in education, we have to be concerned. As far as I am understanding these are allegations against the Reverend Oliver Smalls and I believe the Roman Catholic Bishop made the right move in terms of asking him to withdraw himself from service at this time. It think that was important until we are able make certain that our children are not exposed to any kind of danger. We have to be on the side of caution in these instances but that is one situation. Of course on a daily basis there may be situations that put our children in jeopardy and we have to be concerned in the Ministry of Education and in fact the wider Government to ensure that our children are in a safe environment so the Ministry is always very concerned and we keep a watchful eye on the situations. Reverend Smalls has been operating in Belize for quite some many years and many of our structures that we have put in place in terms of who will engage with our children are more recent systems that we have put in place. For instance everybody knows who interacts whether you know sometimes we have these church volunteer groups or we have student teachers coming from Universities abroad to operate in our schools. There is a checking mechanism. We have to ensure that those persons get some kind of temporary license which is a process and we do check these things but when it comes to the church especially I believe that it is a new area for us and in fact we may now need to start looking at how we can ensure that when they interact….because you are right they are not teachers but in some respects the students are taken to church services. It is through their schools that they get confirmed: the rite of Holy Confirmation. It is through the schools that some of them become acolytes and altar boys and girls so we do need to monitor these things carefully and I don’t think that in terms of what is happening in the Roman Catholic Church, while we know that it is a prevalent problem in other parts of the world, particularly the United States. I do not think, at least not in my time of Minister that I have heard of allegations so serious against any of the Roman Catholic Priest which I only point out because that is our largest partner in terms of our primary school system and for that matter any other denominations that are here. I have not come across members of the cloth who are accused of such things but that is not an excuse to say that we ought not now look very seriously at who is it that is going to interact with our children from the aspect of the church.”
Father Smalls had lawyered up and employed the services of an attorney, Leeroy Banner. Banner sent a press release saying that there was only one allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in Virginia, and that was in 1970. Banner also sent a letter addressed to Bishop Nicascio on 15th February demanding that “the Church refrain from issuing baseless publications.”