Man Says Priest Paid Him for Sex from Age 11 to Age 57
By Janet McConnaughey
Associated Press, carried in State and Regional [New Orleans]
May 15, 2002
The Archdiocese of New Orleans admits that one of its priests seduced a child, paying him for sex - and kept paying him for sex when he grew up.
Richard Bono, now 57, says he kept going back to Msgr. Wesley Michael Landry for money, trading sex to support his gambling habit.
Landry did not return a message left on his answering machine. His attorney did not return a call.
Bono, who made the allegations public, said their sexual relationship started when he was 11 or 12 and lasted 45 years, until six months ago.
He estimated he got $100,000 over the years - the last check being $5,000 last month. It was not for sex, he said, but because he was thinking of leaving New Orleans.
The archdiocese paid him $7,000 in April 1993 to get a release from liability, and Landry retired that June, the Rev. William Maestri, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said.
"How much money does it take to buy a heart, a soul and a conscience?" Bono said in an interview. "Seven-thousand dollars? Seven-hundred dollars? Seven-hundred-thousand dollars? ... If it was $7 million, would it take the guilt from me? No, it wouldn't. Would it take the pain from me? No, it wouldn't."
Bono said Landry took him drinking while they waited for the lawyer. Attorney Stephen Rue is looking into whether that could leave grounds for a lawsuit.
Bono said he decided to make his story public to relieve his conscience and his guilt, to warn parents to be careful about their children's companions and to warn everyone about gambling.
Bono said he was an altar boy from a poor family when Landry was transferred from Thibodaux to his parish, Incarnate Word.
He said the priest seduced him gradually, "betting" increasing amounts of money that Bono would not let the priest rub, kiss or fondle him. Eventually, the priest was performing fellatio - the form Bono said their relationship kept for decades.
He often thought of telling his parents, he said, but he was afraid his father - "a very tough man of the old school" - would blame him and beat him.
At one point, he said, he tried to kill himself in the kitchen of the priest's private home in Slidell, cutting his forearm to the bone. Bono said the priest paid the hospital bill.
After that, Bono said, the priest told him that he was giving him $7,000 and took him to a lawyer's office. Bono said he signed a paper to get the money, but didn't really read it.
Maestri said Landry went to the archbishop and told him about the relationship in March 1993, two months before Bono reported it to the church. Since Landry was nearly 70, he was allowed to retire, Maestri said.
Maestri said "various records" indicated that Landry took $6,700 from the Church of St. Leo the Great. That will be returned to the parish, he said. Maestri said he did not know where Landry got the rest of the money.
Maestri said he has not spoken to Landry and did not know how much Landry himself paid Bono. "This was on a personal basis from Msgr. Landry to the individual," Maestri said.
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