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  N.O. Swept up in Priest Scandal
2 Monsignors Had Sex with Youths

By Bruce Nolan
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
May 16, 2002

A prominent New Orleans priest who helped draft the archdiocese's 1993 sex-abuse policy acknowledged Wednesday that he sexually abused a child for years at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Reserve in the early 1980s.

"I have to say I regret my past actions that have brought confusion and harm to others," Monsignor John C. Sax, 54, said in a statement.

"I'm sorry for hurting them. I regret these lapses from my priestly life and ministry....I have been hoping for reconciliation with the church and the people of God, and those I hurt."

In addition, the archdiocese acknowledged separately that a retired priest now living in Slidell, Monsignor Wesley M. Landry, paid thousands of dollars for sex over several years with a man he first encountered as a child.

The archdiocese said Landry took $6,700 without authorization from his last assignment, St. Leo the Great Parish in Gentilly. The money will be replaced, archdiocesan officials said.

The twin disclosures marked the most difficult day for the Archdiocese of New Orleans since January, when dioceses and archdioceses throughout the country began to be swept up in a clergy sex-abuse scandal.

They come on the eve of a meeting that Archbishop Alfred Hughes had scheduled with all his priests at Notre Dame Seminary to talk to them about the crisis and hear their concerns.

Sax, who now works at a retirement home for priests in Marrero, acknowledged in an interview Wednesday that he molested an altar boy at St. Peter's in Reserve when he was associate pastor, then pastor, between 1980 and 1985.

The accusation against Sax surfaced in a civil suit filed by Joey Trosclair, 31, identified by his attorney as a truck driver now living in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Trosclair sued Sax and the archdiocese in May 2001, but the lawsuit appears to have been served only last month, according to court records.

The archdiocese, meanwhile, said through its spokesman, the Rev. William Maestri, that it would have no comment on the accusation because the matter is in litigation. Sax offered his own statement separately a few hours later.

"My remorse has led me to work on these problems with the help of professionals," he said in a statement that was approved by his attorney. "I have been working on this for several years."

"I have been advised not to be in touch with Joey. I haven't been in touch with him in some time," Sax said. He said Trosclair is the only boy he abused.

Sax declined to answer most questions about the accusation or his years at St. Peter's.

Details emerge in suit

In his suit, Trosclair says Sax abused him repeatedly at St. Peter's beginning when he was about 10 years old.

Sax was a friend of the Trosclair family who often had Joey Trosclair doing odd jobs at the rectory, sometimes too late to bring him home at night, said Darryl Becnel, a Reserve attorney who recently took over the case.

The unspecified abuse occurred on some of those overnight stays, which numbered about 50 annually from about 1980 to 1985, Becnel said.

In his lawsuit, Trosclair says he could not complain to church authorities or file suit until recently "for various psychological reasons."

Becnel described Trosclair as "very unsure of himself, nervous, still having problems dealing with it, very withdrawn."

He said Trosclair does not want to be interviewed about the case.

Sax served from 1991 to 1999 as the archdiocese's director of priest personnel, troubleshooting personnel problems in parishes and lending his recommendation to then-Archbishop Francis Schulte on where priests should be assigned.

In the suit, Trosclair says he told an unidentified priest in Reserve about his experiences in January 2000, the same month that Sax was elevated to monsignor.

In early 2000, the unidentified priest put Trosclair in touch with a counselor whose bills have been paid by the archdiocese, the lawsuit says.

Trosclair apparently met with archdiocesan authorities at that point to tell them about Sax, but Maestri refused Wednesday to describe how the church responded to Trosclair's complaint.

Panel reviewing complaints

A civilian review panel headed by former state Attorney General William Guste is believed to be near the end of a review of all sex-abuse complaints against active New Orleans priests.

"I'm not going to talk at all about individual cases. And I'm not going to talk about what might or might not be before the review board," Maestri said.

Sax said he was put on restricted duty when the archdiocese learned of the complaint, then further restricted when it received the lawsuit a few weeks ago.

Sax works as coordinator at St. John Vianney Villa Retirement Center for priests in Marrero. He said he retains the right to say Mass and otherwise function as a priest.

Sax's other assignments include St. Gabriel the Archangel in 1988; St. Clement of Rome in 1990; St. Raphael the Archangel in 1991; Resurrection of Our Lord in 1991; St. Rita's in New Orleans in 1993; St. Francis of Assisi in 1994; and St. Louis Cathedral in 1999. Sax then went on medical leave and later moved into his current position, Maestri said.

Second priest confesses

Meanwhile in the Landry case, Maestri acknowledged that Landry told the archdiocese in the spring of 1993 that he had a sexual relationship for decades with a man who identified himself Wednesday as Richard Bono, now 57.

Maestri said the archdiocese paid Bono $7,000 to get a release from liability and, about the same time, accepted Landry's retirement.

In an interview Wednesday, Bono said Landry seduced him when he was an altar boy at Incarnate Word Church in New Orleans and continued to entice him with money in exchange for sex for 45 years.

"The money controlled it," said Bono, who lives in a motel room on Airline Drive. "He made me his own personal prostitute....This story goes a lot deeper than a Catholic priest molesting an altar boy....It's destroyed my life."

Bono said he is a compulsive gambler, and claims his taste for gambling was fed by Landry. Bono said the priest seduced him gradually by "betting" increasing amounts of money that he would not let the priest rub, kiss or fondle him. Eventually their relationship progressed to oral sex in exchange for thousands of dollars over the years, he said.

Bono estimated that over almost five decades he has received between $80,000 and $100,000 from Landry.

Bono, who said he has been married and divorced three times, said he tried to end the relationship several times, but was addicted to the cash. To relieve emotional pain, he cut and burned himself with cigarettes and continued to gamble, he said.

Today, Bono, who said he once worked in the credit department at the Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner and is a former Causeway police officer, is destitute.

"Right now I am hanging on by a thread," Bono said. "I'm jobless; I'm penniless; I'm homeless. I can't look at myself in the mirror."

Bono said he last spoke to Landry about a month ago, when he asked the priest for money to move to Las Vegas. He said Landry gave him $5,000. He said $48 remains.

Apology sought

More than money, Bono said he wants an apology from the archdiocese.

"I wish that one of those pastors could experience what's in my mind, in my heart and soul for five minutes," said Bono, as a tear trickled down his cheek. "Then they would have a clue."

No one answered the door Wednesday afternoon at Landry's Slidell area home, a raised Acadian-style house on a two-acre lot shaded by several large live oaks. A neighbor on Old Bayou Liberty Road, who asked not to be identified, said Landry lives alone in the house, which was listed for sale about two weeks ago for $140,000.

"He used to drive his Oldsmobile to get breakfast at McDonald's every morning, but I haven't seen him leave the house in more than a week," the neighbor said.

 
 

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