Baton Rouge diocese says no evidence to support abuse allegation against Gonzales priest
By Gordon Russell
February 03, 2018
|The Diocese of Baton Rouge is probing a complaint about sexual misconduct by a Gonzales parish priest that allegedly occurred in 1996, a church spokesman said.|
The Diocese of Baton Rouge has determined that an abuse allegation it received against a Gonzales parish priest could not be substantiated.
Father Eric Gyan, pastor of St. Theresa of Avila Parish, “continues to serve as a priest in good standing and of good reputation,” the diocese said in a news release issued Saturday evening.
The abuse was alleged to have occurred in 1996, when Gyan was pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Brusly. The victim, now 31, reported the matter to the diocese in November. The woman had told The Advocate that Gyan forced her to perform sex acts on him on multiple occasions when she was 10 and attended the church in Brusly. She said the abuse occurred in the confessional.
The woman made a separate complaint around the same time with the Diocese of Biloxi involving a priest at a church on the Gulf Coast that she attended during the 1990s. The status of that complaint — which church officials confirmed in December was under investigation — could not be determined Saturday.
Diocese of Baton Rouge officials acknowledged they were investigating the complaint in December after The Advocate, which had been contacted by the victim, inquired about the case. Parishioners were also informed about the abuse allegation at that time by Gyan himself, who read a statement during Mass.
Church officials said the allegation was the first and only complaint of abuse they had ever received about Gyan, who was ordained as a priest more than three decades ago. Gyan strongly denied the allegations and “consistently cooperated” in the investigation, they said.
The investigation included “extensive interviews, a public appeal for information, and consultations with experts,” the diocese said.
In a news release, the diocese said that it followed all of its own policies and those set out by the Catholic Church in the wake of the abuse scandals that shook the institution in the early 2000s.
Under those policies, church investigators conduct interviews and gather records pertinent to an allegation. They then turn over their findings to a local independent review board largely comprised of psychologists and other experts outside the employ of the church.
That board “concurred with the findings that the allegation against Father Gyan could not be substantiated,” the diocese said in its statement. Bishop Robert Muench accepted that recommendation, the diocese said.
The woman who reported the abuse now lives in Colorado. She is not being named by The Advocate because she alleges she is a victim of sexual abuse. She said she was moved to report the allegation in November after she saw a man on the street who strongly resembled Gyan; she searched for information about him online and discovered he was still an active priest.
“I decided to do this because I’m concerned that other children may be in danger, and I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else,” she said at the time.
Reached by The Advocate on Saturday, the woman said: “I stand by the truthfulness of the allegations I made against Father Gyan.”
She said she had no further comment.