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  Suspended Priest's Abuse Case Not Causing Stir in Crown Point
Allegation Dates Back 35 Years to Crowley

By Gordon Russell
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
April 29, 2002

The news that the Archdiocese of New Orleans had suspended a priest over an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the Lafayette area in 1967 has so far not caused much of a stir in Crown Point, where the priest now ministers.

In fact, many people in the small community tucked among the swamps and bayous between Marrero and Lafitte said they had not even heard that an allegation of abuse had been leveled against the Rev. Joseph F. Pellettieri, who runs the Ave Maria Retreat House on Barataria Boulevard.

Pellettieri is the second local priest to be caught up in the twin scandals involving pedophilia and official cover-ups that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent months.

Earlier this month, Archbishop Alfred Hughes suspended the Rev. Charles G. Coyle, a local Jesuit priest unattached to a local parish, after Coyle was accused of having sex with a high school student in the Boston area in the early 1970s.

Pellettieri, a Redemptorist priest, is barred from performing any priestly duties while the church investigates the complaint against him. The church has not disclosed the complainant's identity.

Crown Point's muted reaction to the news about the local priest may owe to the dated nature of the allegation, which goes back 35 years ago to the Diocese of Lafayette, when Pellettieri was a teacher and principal at Notre Dame High School in Crowley. Moreover, Pellettieri, 62, has been at the retreat house only since June.

Several nearby residents said the retreat center attracted mostly out-of-town visitors and was seldom used by people from lower Jefferson Parish. The center has 50 rooms for overnight guests, according to its Web site.

"I only know two or three people that ever went there," said Tony Ting, who was readying the Bayou Barn, the Cajun dance hall and restaurant he owns, for the weekly fais do-do he hosts. "Hardly any of the local people go.

"I never met him," Ting said of Pellettieri. "He could be here right now, and I wouldn't know it."

Pat Morrow, owner of the Restaurant des Familles next door, said she also hadn't heard much talk about Pellettieri's suspension. But she knows Pellettieri as a patron.

"All I know is they eat here all the time, the priest and two brothers," Morrow said. "They eat here a lot, and they're very nice people."

The retreat, a woodsy enclave of low brick buildings and covered walkways that backs up to the camps and shrimp boats of Bayou Barataria, was empty Sunday. The doors to the various chapels and meeting halls were locked, and the office was closed.

Next door to the retreat is St. Pius X Catholic Church, whose pastor, the Rev. Terry Hayden, said none of the parishioners who attended his morning Mass made any mention of Pellettieri and his troubles.

Hayden also said he and Pellettieri do not work closely together.

"They have their own services over there," Hayden said. "I didn't know him well personally, but he seems like a fine guy, a fine priest, dedicated to his work.

"We will pray for him."

 
 

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