NEW ORLEANS (LA)
Forbes [Jersey City NJ]
September 7, 2023
By Brian Bushard
A grand jury in Louisiana indicted 91-year-old retired Catholic priest Lawrence Hecker Thursday afternoon on charges of rape and kidnapping for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage boy five decades ago, marking the latest charges against a figure in the Catholic Church.
- Hecker was also charged with aggravated crime against nature and theft, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams (Forbes has reached out to the New Orleans Archdiocese).
- Hecker had admitted to the Catholic Archdiocese in New Orleans that he had sexually molested or shared a bed with multiple teenagers as a Catholic priest, according to a June report in the Guardian, though the Archdiocese only named Hecker as a suspected sexual predator in 2018, saying it learned about the allegation in 1996 and that he had been removed from the ministry in 2002.
- According to the Archdiocese, Hecker had committed the abuse in the late 1960s and 1970s, while multiple outlets reported Hecker approached a child, claiming he was showing him a wrestling move before choking him unconscious.
- In a press conference Thursday, Williams said he plans to expedite the prosecution process in order to move to a trial and potential sentencing before Hecker dies.
“Historically these matters have gone uninvestigated or reach multiple dead ends due to the cone of silence and protection too often rewarded to those who were wrongly placed in positions of trust and confidence,” Williams said.
The Catholic Church has been mired in controversy over repeated sexual abuse allegations that have surfaced in the past two decades, following a revelatory Boston Globe Spotlight Team story published in 2002, detailing more than a decade of sexual assault that had been covered up by the Catholic Church, with more than 130 people coming forward about former Boston priest John Geoghan. That story, which served as the inspiration for the 2015 film Spotlight, led to a series of sexual harassment and assault allegations within the Catholic Church, as well as multiple lawsuits. Earlier this year, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was charged in 2021 with sexual assault, was declared unfit to stand trial, while in June, the Roman Catholic Diocese in Syracuse, New York, agreed to a $100 million settlement paid to 387 sexual abuse survivors as part of a lawsuit involving more than 400 allegations of sexual abuse.
The Vatican has recently been pushing for more accountability for decades of sexual abuse allegations, releasing a two-year canvassing report of churches worldwide earlier this year, and admitting its credibility has been “eroded” as a result of the scandals. That report also found rank-and-file Catholics want justice for victims of sexual abuse, calling for “reform structures” to combat years of cover-ups within the church.
Brian Bushard – I am a Boston-based reporter. Before joining Forbes, I covered the environment, local government and the arts for a small-town newspaper on Nantucket. My previous work includes NPR, WBUR, WCAI and Nantucket Today. I am a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a degree in political science. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org