At St. Dominic in Lakeview, Archbishop Aymond Moves to Boot Priest Suspected of Child Abuse
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
New Orleans Advocate
March 28, 2019
|St. Dominic Church, via Google Maps|
Catholic Church officials asked the Dominican order Thursday to move an elderly priest out of his living quarters at St. Dominic’s Priory in Lakeview, a day after a victim-advocacy group exposed his presence on a list of Dominican religious order members who have been credibly accused of child molestation.
The news about Richard Raphael Archer, 89, a retired priest, was contained in a letter that New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond sent to the parents of children at St. Dominic School on Memphis Street. The school serves students in pre-K through 7th grade and is attached to a church and priory on Harrison Avenue.
Archer in December was among those listed in a 24-name roster of Dominican order members in the eastern and southern United States who were suspected child sex abusers, both living and dead. A board reviewing personnel files deemed “an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor” against Archer as credible. He was removed from public ministry in 2002, when he was assigned to a Metairie-based Dominican province, his order said.
Nonetheless, Archer was still listed as “in residence” at the St. Dominic Priory as of Wednesday, when the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests published a statement highlighting that fact. SNAP’s statement also noted that, despite Archer's past, the Archdiocese of New Orleans marked the 50th anniversary of his ordination in a 2017 news release recognizing veteran priests.
Archer's name was not among the 57 names on a list of credibly accused clergy in New Orleans that Aymond released on Nov. 2. The list was comprised of diocesan and religious order priests whom the archdiocese had removed from ministry, or would have removed had they been living. However, Aymond cautioned that the release did not include clergy and religious personnel who had been defrocked by their orders.
Aymond wrote to parents of St. Dominic on Thursday that he hadn’t learned of Archer’s status until that morning, but then acted immediately.
“I have been in touch with … Dominican (leadership) and advised … that Archer may no longer reside at the St. Dominic’s Priory, effective today,” Aymond’s letter said. “Although it is my understanding that he has been confined to the priory and not in contact with the students of St. Dominic, I believe this decision to ask the Dominican Order to move him is the appropriate one.”
Dominican order officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about what they plan to do after Aymond’s request. Archer was no longer listed as an “in residence priest” at St. Dominic as of Thursday evening.
Archer’s removal from public ministry came as the Catholic Church’s decades-long, clergy abuse scandal in the U.S. hit a fever pitch in Boston. The scandal has again boiled over in recent months as new cases of clergy abuse have continued coming to light worldwide.
Catholic officials both locally and nationally have disclosed lists of credibly accused clergy and religious members in hopes of winning back the trust of parishioners disgusted by the latest aftershocks of the scandal. But new names continue to be revealed.
Newspaper clips show Archer frequently officiated services at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ponchatoula throughout the 1990s. He also routinely presided over services at a Ponchatoula funeral home.
Archer was one of four Dominican members from the December list who were assigned to a regional chapter that was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in Metairie.
The other three on the release are dead: Dominican brother John L. Malachy Cosgrove, and John Aquinas Powers and Bernardine George Dyer, both of whom were ordained as priests.
Attempts to contact Archer on Thursday were unsuccessful.