New Or­leans arch­dio­cese re­leases list of 57 al­leged sex abusers

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY JANET MCCONNAUGHEY As­so­ci­ated Press

The Arch­dio­cese of New Or­leans re­leased a list Fri­day of 57 priests and other clergy it says faced cred­i­ble child sex abuse al­le­ga­tions, the first such list to be re­leased in Louisiana.

Those un­der arch­dioce­san con­trol have been re­moved from the clergy or are dead, Arch­bishop Gre­gory Ay­mond wrote in a pas­toral let­ter re­leased with the list on the arch­dioce­san web­site. The list named 20 as priests of re­li­gious or­ders which were re­spon­si­ble for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions.

“This en­tire list has been given to the Or­leans Par­ish District At­tor­ney and will be made avail­able to any other District At­tor­ney,” Ay­mond wrote.

The Catholic Church is reel­ing from a grand jury re­port re­leased in Au­gust that es­ti­mated hun­dreds of priests in Penn­syl­va­nia mo­lested more than 1,000 chil­dren since the 1940s.

Louisiana is the state where the first widely re­ported case of clergy sex abuse be­came pub­lic in the 1980s. Gil­bert Gau­the, a priest in the Dio­cese of Lafayette, pleaded guilty in 1985 to abus­ing 11 boys but tes­ti­fied that he had mo­lested dozens. The dio­cese is cur­rently com­pil­ing its own list, which will be re­leased once the re­search is com­pleted, Blue Rolfes, spokes­woman for the Lafayette Dio­cese, wrote in an email.

The Arch­dio­cese of New Or­leans cov­ers the city and seven nearby civil parishes. Ay­mond said he had re­ceived many calls and emails both for and against re­leas­ing the list, which he said was cre­ated by re­view­ing files of 2,432 priests who had served in the arch­dio­cese since the 1950s.

“I be­lieve it is the right thing to do in or­der to foster the heal­ing of vic­tims, in a spirit of trans­parency, and in the pur­suit of jus­tice,” he wrote, adding, “Je­sus re­minds us, ‘The truth will set you free.’ ”

The arch­dio­cese’s list in­cludes where each man served and the es­ti­mated years dur­ing which the abuse oc­curred.

Al­leged abuses by 23 priests and dea­cons had made the news, but those by the other 34 cler­gy­men ap­par­ently had not, The New Or­leans Ad­vo­cate re­ported . It said the list did not in­clude brothers, nuns, dioce­san staff or lay em­ploy­ees of Catholic in­sti­tu­tions.

News out­lets said eight priests in the Sale­sian or­der had worked at Hope Haven, a home for trou­bled youth. In 2009, the arch­dio­cese agreed to a $5.2 mil­lion le­gal set­tle­ment to law­suits al­leg­ing phys­i­cal, sex­ual and emotional abuse.

Ay­mond wrote that more than 10 peo­ple, in­clud­ing staff and out­side le­gal pro­fes­sion­als, re­viewed the files. “For priests with ac­cu­sa­tions re­ceived af­ter their death, ad­di­tional peo­ple re­viewed the file to en­sure ac­cu­racy to the ex­tent that is pos­si­ble af­ter death,” he wrote.

Ac­cord­ing to Ay­mond, the num­ber of “sub­stan­ti­ated” cases has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly since 2002, when the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Bish­ops cre­ated a char­ter re­quir­ing every U.S. dio­cese to pro­tect chil­dren from abuse.

“Most of the ac­cu­sa­tions are from in­ci­dents that oc­curred decades ago, even as long as 70 years ago,” Ay­mond wrote. “There has not been a sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor com­mit­ted in well over a decade by a mem­ber of the clergy in min­istry in the Arch­dio­cese of New Or­leans.”

He also in­vited peo­ple to come for­ward if they have al­le­ga­tions about some­one not on the list.

“For our sins of the past, we ask for your for­give­ness and the mercy of God,” Ay­mond wrote. “Our sin is pub­lic and it calls us as church lead­ers to re­pen­tance in or­der that our church can ex­pe­ri­ence re­newal.”

In re­cent months, au­thor­i­ties in at least a doz- en states have opened in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have launched an un­prece­dented statewide probe in Penn­syl­va­nia.

Or­leans Par­ish District At­tor­ney Leon Can­niz­zaro re­leased a state­ment say­ing, “As al­ways, we stand ready to eval­u­ate for pos- sible prose­cu­tion any cases brought to us af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions are com­pleted by the New Or­leans Po­lice De­part­ment.”

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