Redemptorist Priest Accused of Sex Abuse in Lafayette
Hughes Suspends Cleric, Who Now Works in N.O.

By Gwen Filosa
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
April 28, 2002

Archbishop Alfred Hughes has suspended a priest over an allegation made this week that he sexually abused a minor 35 years ago while serving the Diocese of Lafayette.

The Rev. Joseph F. Pellettieri, 62, a Redemptorist priest and director of a retreat house in Crown Point, is barred from performing any priestly duties while the church investigates the complaint.

An unidentified person has accused Pellettieri of an abuse in 1967, when the priest was a teacher and principal at Notre Dame High School in Crowley. Church officials would not comment further on the allegation.

"He is still a priest and still a member of the Redemptorist order," said the Rev. William Maestri, an archdiocese spokesman. "He simply is not functioning as a priest."

Unpriestly charges pending

Pellettieri, who came to the New Orleans archdiocese June 1, 2001, was suspended Thursday, the day after the complaint was made to the Redemptorist order. He is not a diocesan priest nor had he worked at any local parishes, but had run the Ave Maria Retreat House. Attempts to reach Pellettieri on Saturday were unsuccessful.

No lawsuits have been filed in connection with the allegation, said the Very Rev. Thomas Picton, vice provincial superior for the Redemptorist order.

The church investigation will be handled by the Redemptorists and the Lafayette diocese.

Pellettieri has never been accused of sexual misconduct while working within the Archdiocese of New Orleans, nor have any other complaints surfaced out of Lafayette, Maestri said.

"Father Pellettieri had a clean record upon his entrance into the diocese and during his time of service," he said.

Pellettieri worked in the Lafayette diocese from 1967 to 1976. He served in Waterford, Wis., Baton Rouge and Alexandria before arriving in New Orleans last year.

Local Jesuit suspended

Archbishop Hughes suspended another priest earlier this month over an allegation of sexual abuse that dates back 30 years to a Massachusetts high school.

The Rev. Charles G. Coyle, a local Jesuit priest not attached to any local parish, is accused of having sex with a high school student in the early 1970s.

In a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts, a former Newton man says that while at Coyle's home, the priest performed oral sex on him. The alleged victim's name was withheld from the suit.

Coyle, who taught briefly at Jesuit High School in the early 1960s, worked as a guidance counselor at a Newton high school during the time of the alleged abuse.

Hughes quietly suspended Coyle and didn't announce it until April 19, as news of the accusation arose in Boston. The archdiocese waited to disclose the suspension out of respect for the priest's rights, Maestri has said.

On Saturday, he repeated that the church will not rush to judgment.

"We're sad for the church, and we're sad for people who are abused," Maestri said. "However, we want to make sure we act in a proper way that respects the rights of all. We're concerned about the victims, and we also want to make sure the accused's rights are respected."

The archdiocese announced in February that it will review the files of every priest and deacon now working in New Orleans and send "credible" allegations to a review panel headed by former state Attorney General William Guste. The church has turned over some information to the St. Tammany Parish sheriff and the New Orleans Police Department and has met with New Orleans prosecutors.

Coyle's personnel files in New Orleans showed no allegations of sexual misconduct, according to church officials.


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