New Orleans Archdiocese Reports Five New Abuse Cases

By Doug Simpson
Associated Press, carried in Herald Tribune [New Orleans LA]
Downloaded February 28, 2004


Five new credible allegations of sex abuse by priests have been reported in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, bringing the total number to 41 since 1950, an archdiocese spokesman said Friday.

The total does not include Catholic religious orders, which account for 75 percent of the church's active clergy in the archdiocese, Rev. William Maestri said. Those cases remain under investigation and Maestri said he did not know when those figures would be released.

The new cases were reported since the Archdiocese last released figures on church sex abuse, on Jan. 24. The five cases involve two priests who had been removed from the priesthood before the allegations were made, Maestri said. The alleged abuses took place between the early 1970s and 1983; all the alleged victims are now adults.

Maestri said he thought more victims have come forward recently because of a 2002 shift in church policy. He said the church now focuses less on protecting priests and the church from scandal, and more on helping both victims and priests in the aftermath of abuse allegations.

"As more and more of this is discussed, more and more people see the response of the church to being forthright, to dealing with these in a calm and forthright fashion, I think people are coming forward," Maestri said.

Nationally, victims rights groups have said the figures released Friday are far below the actual number of victims and incidents of abuse. Many victims have not come forward and many priests have not admitted to committing sex abuse, they said.

Of the 41 alleged victims in the New Orleans Archdiocese, nearly all were male and between the ages of 11 and 14 when the abuse took place. Those figures parallel the national statistics on sexual abuse released Friday by a lay watchdog panel formed by U.S. bishops, which documented sex abuse by priests around the country between 1950 and 2002.

Maestri said the 41 allegations were directed against 10 priests and two deacons, who make up less than 2 percent of clergy active in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese has received no credible allegations about sex abuse occurring after 1986.


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