Pedophile Priest's Release Raises Concerns

By Amanda Mcelfresh
Daily World
April 25, 2010

LAFAYETTE Former Acadiana priest and convicted pedophile Gilbert Gauthe was released from a Texas jail this week after serving a two-year sentence for violating that state's sex offender registration laws.

Gauthe, 64, had been incarcerated in the Galveston County jail since April 2008, after he failed to properly notify law enforcement authorities when he moved.

His release has raised new concerns for some in Acadiana, particularly those connected with his victims. Gauthe served 10 years of a 20-year sentence after being convicted in 1985 of molesting several Vermilion Parish boys while a priest with the Diocese of Lafayette. He also had been stationed at churches in Broussard and Iberia Parish.

"He should have absolutely never been free," said attorney Anthony Fontana, who represented some of the victims in court cases. "He's still a threat. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind. He lives and breathes every second to molest kids."

After being released from jail in 1995, Gauthe was arrested in Texas in 1996, accused of fondling a 3-year-old boy. He was allowed to plead as a first offender to misdemeanor child injury after there was a mix-up about his past conviction.

"He will always be a threat, and the danger has risen," Fontana said. "The last case in Texas involved a toddler. He's moving down the chain in terms of age so that the person can't testify against him. He's going to go wherever he thinks he can go where nobody will know about him."

Author Jason Berry, who wrote extensively about Gauthe in the 1980s and later published a book, Lead Us Not Into Temptation, on other scandals involving priests abusing children, recalled the Gauthe case as a landmark one that is remembered even 20 years later.

"Child sexual abuse had only begun to receive media attention in 1984 when Gauthe was indicted," Berry said via e-mail. "The reporting I did in 1985 drew national media attention. By 1992, when I published Lead Us Not Into Temptation, the bishops' concealment strategies had become an issue in many newsrooms."

In the years since the Gauthe scandal, the Diocese of Lafayette has taken steps to prevent similar situations, particularly with the implementation of its policy, "A Safe Environment for the Protection of Children and Young People."

That policy was first implemented in 2003 and calls for a prompt response and immediate investigation into any allegations of sexual abuse within the church, as well as an outreach program and assistance for any victims.

"These policies and programs ... recognize that sexual and other abusive misconduct with minors is a special problem with a profound impact on the lives of those affected," the policy states.

"They are in place to provide for a safe environment for all children and persons who come in contact with those who minister, are employed or volunteer in service of the Church."Berry said that while it would violate Gauthe's constitutional rights to re-incarcerate him on charges for which he has already served jail time, some type of long-term follow-up for both him and other sexual abusers may be warranted.

"As a general principle, I think the courts should mandate sustained outpatient treatment and insist that parole officers or social service agencies track the follow up," Berry wrote.

"That's preferable to simply turning someone loose. There is no perfect scenario, but society and government owe it to children to work hard on prevention and provide counseling for any sex offender."

Daily Advertiser staff reporter Claire Taylor contributed to this story.


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