NEW ORLEANS (LA)
Times-Picayune / New Orleans Advocate
May 8, 2020
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
Board said plaintiff agreeably resigned to avoid appearance of conflict of interest, but plaintiff says he felt forced out
The leader of the board of directors for one of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ various ministries resigned his post recently after claiming in a lawsuit against the church that he was molested by one of its priests decades ago.
The plaintiff — whom The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate is not identifying because he’s a victim of sex abuse — spoke out about his case after an April 30 letter from the ministry to his fellow board members said he had agreed to resign to avoid “at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
But the plaintiff said he had hoped to remain on the board and resigned under duress. He didn’t believe there was a conflict because the board is incorporated separately from the archdiocese’s administrative offices, which filed for federal bankruptcy protections on May 1, citing the financial fallout from clerical abuse lawsuits and the coronavirus pandemic.
The plaintiff’s case dates back to when he entered the fifth grade at St. Ann School in Metairie in 1980, according to records filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. One day that academic year, the plaintiff was behind the church rectory when he encountered James Collery, a Spiritan order member who was originally from Ireland and had just been transferred there.
Collery was pretending to tuck in the boy’s T-shirt when he used his hand to fondle the plaintiff’s genitals and penetrate him, the lawsuit alleged. The plaintiff, who served as an altar boy, said Collery, who died in 1987, molested him in similar fashion after catching the boy alone in the sacristy a couple of other times.
Despite the abuse, the plaintiff clung to his Catholic faith as he grew up and began serving on numerous charitable boards and committees associated with the archdiocese. He said he had been in those roles for a number of years when, in 2013, he decided to privately report Collery’s assaults to the archdiocese — specifically, to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, for whom the plaintiff had once been an altar boy.
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