Confidential documents obtained by HB News reveal a church torn apart by conflict, conspiracy, and backstabbing worthy of a Netflix series
The massive arms trafficking case that tarnished the reputation of the Episcopal Church last July is continuing and intensifying a violent internal conflict involving men of God. Some are accused of serious crimes, according to confidential documents obtained exclusively by HB News and interviews with four people involved and close to the case.
Hostilities exploded openly in 2018. Between March and June of that year, the church was to elect a bishop to replace Bishop Jean Zachée Duracin, who was retiring the following year.
Unlike the Catholic Church, which is headed by a pope, the Episcopal Church is managed by a group of bishops. At the local level, the bishop has broad powers from ordaining priests to controlling various expenditures.
Hostilities exploded openly in 2018.
Serious allegations of fraud derailed the electoral process. Since then, the Episcopal Church in Haiti has been without a bishop. It is the standing committee that makes almost all religious and administrative decisions since the retirement of Bishop Jean Zachée Duracin.
This committee, chaired in 2022 by the Saint-Père Mardoché Vil, enshrines the control of a group called “G-Holly” over the Church’s business. This powerful political coalition is battling with a splinter group called “Group-24”. This group consists of 24 active priests who are committed to moral and ethical values. No Group-24 supporters sits on the standing committee.
Since then, the Episcopal Church in Haiti has been without a bishop.
G-Holly now finds itself in turmoil. As of July 14, 2022, the group is facing charges of illicit trafficking when 18 weapons of war, four 9-millimetre pistols, 14,646 rounds of ammunition, 140 magazines, one sight and $50,000 in counterfeit US dollars were discovered in containers from the United States, shipped on behalf of the Episcopal Church. The church denounces any illegal use of its customs exemption in this case.
But that’s not the whole story.
Father Mardoché Vil, current chair of the standing committee, was rejected for the position of bishop in 2017 due to accusations of sexual abuse.
According to confidential correspondence from Groupe-24 signed by priest Jean Joël Racine obtained by HB News and addressed to U.S. episcopal hierarchies, Father Mardoché Vil was unable to run for bishop in 2017 due to revelations from an internal investigation.
That investigation revealed that the Saint-Père had “sexually and physically abused” a young woman who was also a member of his parish at the Church of the Epiphany, Place Carl-Brouard, in Port-au-Prince. “It would be an affront to secular society and to our branch of the Jesus Movement if Father Mardoché Vil, an alleged sexual abuser, were president of the ecclesiastical body of our diocese. The actions of the Standing Committee clearly demonstrate that we are in urgent need of pastoral care and leadership in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti,” the letter states.
No Group-24 supporters sits on the standing committee.
These warnings will not prevent Father Mardoché Vil from becoming president of the committee in early 2022. This position makes him the leader of the institution in the absence of an elected bishop. However, he was unable to run for this position five years ago.
In addition, the current chairman of the standing committee was reportedly already caught rigging a round of church elections a year after the earthquake, while serving on the counting committee, according to a protest note dated September 7, 2017, signed by about 20 priests, and transferred to members of the Episcopal Church’s selection/appointment committee. A source close to the conflict shared the letter with HB News.
“On November 25, 2011, while Reverend Mardoché was a member of the ballot counting committee in the Episcopal election, he stole more than ten ballots during the counting process to nullify a round of elections, the correspondence states. If it were not for the involvement of the synodical secretary and a member of the election committee at the time, who had to force him to return the ballots, he would have defeated that election process.”
The Episcopal Church seems to attract public scandals. In 2019, a journalist publicly claimed to have sexual images of former standing committee chairman Fr. Fritz Désiré.
Church officials then sent a letter to Désiré. “These rather serious allegations are troubling and deserve to be investigated,” the priests wrote. “In your capacity as chairman of the standing committee and at the same time principal of one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the diocese, they continued, these allegations have the potential to tarnish the image of a church that has not yet recovered from the troubles and improprieties of an election period.”
A source close to the church, requesting anonymity, told HB News that Father Fritz Désiré, former president of the standing committee, and Father Jean Mardoché Vil are very close friends. Both individuals are wanted by the Haitian National Police in the investigation of arms trafficking. Attempts to interview them have been unsuccessful.
Today, the private affairs of the church are publicly exposed. A fierce internal fight is being waged, mainly by Groupe-24, to get the institution back on track with normalcy and spirituality.
The G-Holly clan holds the reins, for now. In an interview with HB News, Father Jean Jacques Déravil notes that no member of the G-24 has ever joined the standing committee, even though one-third of its members are renewed each year at a large annual meeting. The prelate, speaking for himself, is convinced that this is not a mere coincidence, but rather the success of the G-Holly’s surreptitious plan.
This point was made in a letter from retired Father Jean Joël Racine to U.S. Church leaders.
“Since the historic and unprecedented ordination of 35 deacons in the diocese of the Episcopal Church of Haiti in November 2016 – four months before the aborted May 2017 episcopal election – the diocesan synod has been controlled by a group loyal to the then diocesan bishop [Jean Zachée Duracin]. This group holds, to this day, most votes on the clergy and lay side. This majority has once again shown how immoral and unethical the diocese is,” reads the letter obtained by HB News.
According to Father Jean Jacques Déravil, priest in charge of the Saint-Esprit church in Lascahobas, a member of the Group-24, the committee in place is more interested in money than in the proper functioning of the church. The committee has been mandated primarily to elect a bishop to lead the church for the past four years, but it has yet to accomplish this mission.
English translation by by Didenique Jocelyn and Sarah Jean.
Cover photo : © Luis Quintero