Priest Suspended for Impropriety before His Ordination

Associated Press State & Local Wire
March 4, 2003

The former pastor of a Raceland Catholic church has been suspended for soliciting a minor more than 15 years ago, before he was ordained.

The incident is the only one in the Rev. Lawrence A. Cavell's history, and involved words, not acts, said Louis Aguirre, spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

He said Cavell, 46, former pastor of St. Mary's Nativity Church admitted to "solicitation of a minor" when he was confronted last month with questions about his past. He already had left the parish for health reasons.

The minor, now an adult, asked that all details - including geographical information and gender - be kept confidential, Aguirre said.

No accusations have arisen as a result of the priest's association with the church in Raceland or other local parishes.

Cavell was out of the state and could not be reached for comment, diocese officials said Monday.

Asked whether the suspension might be considered an overreaction, Aguirre said current guidelines require a strong response to allegations of abuse and impropriety.

"The heightened awareness of our role in protecting young people extends beyond just diocesan officials," Aguirre said. "In effect, all of us who work for the church in any capacity and love the church are keenly aware of the need to deal with these things promptly.

"And so when even a hint of an accusation is brought to the attention of the diocese, it is to be dealt with swiftly and thoroughly, within the bounds of our own guidelines."

New diocesan guidelines mandate that diocesan personnel inform civil authorities when a crime against a child is suspected.

Aguirre said the church did not report this case because the person solicited is now an adult. The person was told to repor it to civil authorities if he or she considers it warranted, Aguirre said.

In Louisiana, victims of some solicitation related crimes have up to 10 years to report them after their 18th birthday, law-enforcement officials said.

According to the diocese, information of a possible accusation concerning Cavell was presented to church authorities, who interviewed the priest within a month of his departure due to health reasons.

Cavell supplied information to Monsignor James B. Songy, the ranking diocesan administrator.

Cavell is considering a departure from the priesthood altogether, Aguirre said, but details of the priest's future plans are not firmed up.

In a statement the diocese encouraged anyone who knows of instances in which minors may have been abused by clergy to call its Outreach Line at (866) 444-4241 or 873-0026.


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