Priest, Diocese Charged in Molestation Suit

United Press International
November 15, 1985

A second priest this year in the Lafayette diocese has been accused of abusing children within the sanctity of the church in the guise of religious rites, a civil lawsuit revealed this week.

Less than a month after the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe pleaded guilty to molesting altar boys, two new lawsuits were filed against another priest accusing him of similar abuses with girls.

Attorney Anthony Fontana of Abbeville, on behalf of five sisters, earlier this week filed two lawsuits totaling $50 million against the Lafayette diocese and the Rev. John Engbers.

Fontana represents Bonnie Butaud Bonin, Chantelle Butaud, Lois Butaud Migues, Marguerite Butaud Granger and Shirleen Butaud Fitzgerald, who range in age from 20 to 35.

Engbers, 63, was removed from his post last July as pastor of Our Lady of Perpeutal Help in the Vermilion Parish community of Leroy after the sisters told church officials they planned to go to court.

Church sources report he has returned to his native Holland and church officials have refused to discuss the lawsuits.

A second lawsuit bars public scrutiny of the information because a sixth alleged victim is a juvenile.

The first lawsuit claims Engbers molested two of the sisters beginning 28 years ago in a church sacristy, permitting them "to play tea party with unconsecrated hosts."

Engbers allegedly took pornographic pictures of the women when they were children and engaged in various sex acts with one plaintiff on a weekly basis for two years, the lawsuit contends.

The eldest sister, Bonin, claims Engbers began to molest her in 1957 when she was 7 years old. The family lived in Louisa and had moved into the rectory for one year after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Audrey.

The four other sisters contend they each were molested as they grew older, but none talked to each other about the abuses until last year when Bonin warned a friend about allowing her daughter to take art lessons from the priest.

The friend convinced Bonin to talk to Fontana, who talked to each of the sisters and uncovered the same allegations.

Fontana claims when the priest was confronted with the allegations in January, he admitted committing the acts with the eldest sister but insisted it was an isolated incident and had not recurred.

Fontana says the sisters were reluctant to file the lawsuit, and only did so six months later after it became evident to them church officials had no intention of removing Engbers from his position in Leroy.

Fontana said when he informed church officials of the impending lawsuit, he was told Engbers had been suspended from the priesthood.


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