NEW ORLEANS (LA)
Big Easy Magazine [New Orleans LA]
June 22, 2021
By Helen Lewis
The Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse (SCSA) issued a letter to various law enforcement officials requesting that they read the sealed deposition of accused child rapist, and former Catholic priest, Lawrence Hecker.
The President of SCSA Richard Windmann explained that a “Federal Court in New Orleans, Louisiana has sealed a deposition in which a Catholic priest admitted to raping a child. Because the deposition is sealed by the court, this predator is a free man on the streets of our community, and no child is safe, and he has escaped Justice…In the original filing of the motion, the filing attorneys (who conducted the deposition) admitted that Lawrence Hecker admitted to raping a child.” The court ended up sealing the deposition because of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’s bankruptcy filing.
Archbishop Aymond, who runs the Archdiocese of New Orleans, has repeatedly stated that the church cannot release personnel records because they are private, valuing his pedophile priest’s privacy over the safety of children. This makes sense considering how Aymond continued to provide living stipends to credibly accused priests until the church was ordered to stop by a federal bankruptcy judge. The Archdiocese will always side with, and try to cover up crimes for, these priests who raped children.
This tactic to keep horrific details of abuse quiet through sealing depositions and testimonies has often been implemented by the Catholic Church to cover up sex abuse. Advocates have argued that documents containing evidence of felonious activities or that cover-up crimes should not be tagged as “confidential.”
In a “Message to Federal and Louisiana State Law Enforcement,” Mark Vath, one of SCSA’s founders elaborated, “In December of 2020, one of the most heinous criminals within the church was deposed in federal court. Dozens of survivors came forward to share their awful memories of abuse at the hands of Father Lawrence Hecker. The federal court agreed to allow the deposition of Hecker, and possible future depositions of the few priests still alive, including one of my abusers, Paul Calamari. These men are still alive, walking the streets, and are still a very real threat to young children who come in contact with them.”
After Hecker’s deposition, the attorneys of victims wrote a motion to unseal it and make public his response to claims of rape. These attorneys believed that doing so would not only enable law enforcement to finally ensure that Hecker faces justice, but also would protect the public. Attorneys who filed the motion said Lawrence Hecker “is still very much alive, vibrant, lives alone, and is a danger to young boys until he draws his final breath.”
The motion explained, “This is one of the most consequential pleadings all three undersigned counsel ever have filed, and it is expected that it might be for the court as well. This case relates to matters of utmost public concern, the sexual abuse of JW Doe and many other children by a living, diseased pedophile (Father Lawrence Hecker) and the cover-up of that abuse by the archdiocese of New Orleans.”
The attorneys argued that “This deposition and the documents attached to it establish grotesque felonies committed by Hecker that systematically were covered up by the archdiocese for several decades. Evidence of undisclosed felonies never can be designated as “confidential”…Maybe counsel for the archdiocese gambled that this court would not read the deposition and/or the referenced documents, but there is MORE than ample evidence and “support” that both Hecker and the archdiocese concealed multiple felonies perpetrated by Hecker against children. It is even more disingenuous for the archdiocese to contend that child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is NOT a matter of public concern.”
The federal court read and considered the attorney’s motion to unseal the documents but denied unsealing them. The court explained, “For the reasons stated in detail on the record, the court denies to grant plaintiff the relief he seeks at this time. With regard to the Hecker deposition transcripts, there is no protective order yet in place, despite the court’s previous order that the parties submit one. Accordingly, the court will now issue a protective order sua sponte. Similarly, there has been no designation of confidential testimony, as was also ordered by the court. Any effort to unseal testimony at this point is therefore premature…More importantly, questions and testimony germane to the claims against Hecker and the archdiocese are so intertwined that they are insusceptible of meaningful disentanglement, which, in the case of a motion to unseal, would be necessary in light of the limited lift-stay order issued by the bankruptcy judge.”
The court asserts that the bankruptcy proceedings and the Hecker case cannot be separated, tying together two cases that are unquestionably different. One concerns the archdiocese’s finances and the other concerns a priest who sexually assaulted children.
Prior to the ruling, Fox 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti said, “In America, there is a presumption that things should be open in a courtroom, so, what is a compelling reason for this not to be released is a question the judge is going to have to answer. So, the church has to come up with a reason, which I’m struggling with, as to why this should not be released…there is no real reason for it not to be released.”
SCSA is asking law enforcement authorities, including the US attorney, attorney general, and Louisiana State Police, who are allowed to read sealed documents to prosecute crimes, to read the transcripts from Hecker’s deposition. They hope that doing so will lead to felony convictions or the deposition being unsealed.