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  Belle Chasse Priest Accused of Sex Abuse
Archdiocese Relieves Him of Duties

By Bruce Nolan
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
April 25, 2004

The Archdiocese of New Orleans has removed a Belle Chasse pastor from his pulpit after two men alleged that he sexually abused them as teenagers, an archdiocese spokesman said Saturday.

The Rev. Pat Sanders, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, was stripped of his facul ties as a priest Friday, the Rev. William Maestri said. Sanders, who could not be reached for comment, has denied the allega tions, Maestri said.

Maestri said the alleged incident occurred in 1993 when Sanders, then a priest for three years, drove two 16-year-olds to an outing in Biloxi, Miss. They had left a day ahead of other teens making the trip from Sanders' Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in eastern New Orleans. Sanders was working as a parochial vicar, or assistant to the pastor, at the time, Maestri said.

Maestri said the archdiocese heard the first man's complaint about Sanders on Feb. 16. That man recommended church investigators contact the second man, Maestri said. The second man lodged a complaint against Sanders on March 29, Maestri said, adding that investigators were unable to immediately interview the man because he travels frequently for work.

An 18-member advisory board composed of lay psychologists, social workers, educators, parents and two priests heard a report on the case Thursday, Maestri said. Archbishop Alfred Hughes relieved Sanders of his

priestly duties on Friday. Church lawyers will pass the complaint on to law enforcement authorities in Biloxi on Monday, Maestri said.

Hughes and the church were sued Monday by former priest Bernard Schmaltz, who claimed that Hughes defamed him by naming him as the subject of sexual abuse complaint in a similar public announcement in

January. Schmaltz denied the abuse claim.

Asked whether the church had changed its procedures in the wake of Schmaltz's suit, Maestri said it would continue to fully disclose new, credible sexual abuse complaints. Parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help first heard the news in a letter from Hughes read at Saturday evening Masses. A similar announcement was planned for today's services.

Sanders was ordained in 1990 and served first at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in New Orleans. In 1993, he moved to Resurrection and in 1995 to St. Angela Merici in Metairie. He became the pastor of St. Peter Church in Reserve in 1997, and four years later was transferred to Belle Chasse, Maestri said. In addition to his duties at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Sanders was the head of the Algiers-Plaquemines deanery, giving him some supervisory duties over a cluster of West Bank parishes, Maestri said. He also served for a brief, undisclosed period as temporary administrator at St. Thomas Parish in Pointe a la Hache.

Sanders' loss of ministry is indefinite and likely will last at least several months. New church procedures call for Hughes to gather all available facts and forward a full report to Rome.

There, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will consider whether it wants to take over the case or, more likely, send it back for New Or-leans to be heard by a local church tribunal.

Sanders also was the local supervisor for efforts to have Monsignor Jean Eyraud declared a saint, a position to which he was appointed by former Archbishop Francis Schulte. Sanders first heard of Eyraud when he took over St. Peter's, the parish where the legendary French priest served for 47 years until his death in 1968.

In an interview last year, Sanders said he was touched by the stories of parishioners who believed Eyraud was a saint, and that he hoped to use Eyraud's example as a model for his priesthood.

 
 

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