Woman Suing Lafayette Diocese

By Jeff Moore
Daily World
December 27, 2009

Lafayette -- Melody Thibodaux is seeking unspecified monetary damages against Michael Breaux, a sacristan with the church, the Diocese of Lafayette and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Parish.

The lawsuit was filed in 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette.

Thibodaux, a cantor and member of the church choir, accuses Breaux of touching her inappropriately on several occasions in the lawsuit, including grabbing her breasts in the cathedral before Mass on Nov. 30, 2008.

She also accuses Breaux of making sexual comments about one of her daughters.

The suit states Thibodaux reported Breaux's behavior to the Rev. Keith Derouen, but was told to keep quiet.

Thibodaux has since learned that other women in the church had voiced similar complaints against Breaux in the past, said her attorney, Anthony Fontana.

"She really feels let down by the church," Fontana said.

One potential sticking point in the lawsuit could be a statement Thibodaux signed releasing the church and diocese from liability.

But Fontana said Thibodaux was pressured to sign the statement, then put in the unfair position of deciding whether Thibodaux should be fired.

"What blows my mind is that they would ask her what she wanted them to do about it," Fontana said.

The Diocese of Lafayette has faced allegations of sexual misconduct in the past, most notably in cases involving former priests Gilbert Gauthe and John Engbers.

The church and its insurers paid more than $18 million to 34 victims of Gauthe, who was assigned to churches throughout Acadiana in the 1970s despite multiple complaints of abuse.

"The church has been doing this for 30 years," Fontana said. "Nothing's changed."

Lafayette Diocese spokesman Monsignor Richard Greene said the Diocese had no comment on the lawsuit. The Diocese does not comment on pending litigation, he said.

LAFAYETTE — A Lafayette woman accuses a St. John's Cathedral employee of multiple incidents of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed in district court.

Thibodaux is the widow of longtime Lafayette Parish School Board member and UL professor David Thibodaux.

Attempts to reach Breaux and officials with St. John's Cathedral prior to the holiday were not successful.


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