In the wake of child pornography charges lodged against a Breaux Bridge parish priest this week, the Diocese of Lafayette has expressed its commitment to transparency in such cases.
Monsignor Curtis Mallet, vicar general, said Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel wants his flock to know he and church leaders take seriously accusations, that parishioners at St. Bernard Catholic Church and the diocese should know their spiritual shepherd is following state law and Pope Francis’ mandates, expressed in June, when it comes to crimes against vulnerable children.
That marks a step forward for this diocese, historically tight-lipped about its priests and credible accusations of sex crimes involving children.
The arrest of the Rev. F. David Broussard, St. Bernard’s pastor, represents an accusation; he has been charged, not convicted and should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Broussard was charged with 500 counts of possession of child pornography after that many images were found on his personal computer.
In a Wednesday news conference — a news conference in itself marked diocesan progress toward openness — Deshotel said the diocese cooperated with state investigators; State Police confirmed Friday that investigation remains “open.” Broussard is on leave.
In the U.S., acknowledgement of both widespread sex abuse and church cover-ups began to rise some three decades ago in Louisiana, including within the Lafayette diocese. Two years ago, court records connected to a Minnesota lawsuit revealed the names of at least 10 local priests credibly accused in child molestation cases.
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