Priest 'loved' by parish arrested for child porn
By Dominick Cross
July 27, 2016
|Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel addresses reporters at a press conference dealing with allegations that Rev. F. David Broussard, a priest in Breau Bridge, was in possession of more than 500 images of child pornography at the Archdiocese of Lafayette offices July 27. |
|F. David Broussard|
A Breaux Bridge priest accused of possessing child pornography was held in high regard in the parish, according to Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, of the Diocese of Lafayette.
The Rev. F. David Broussard, pastor of St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church in Breaux Bridge for the past two years, was arrested Wednesday by Louisiana State Police on 500 counts of possession of child pornography.
Broussard also is the chancellor of St. Bernard School in Breaux Bridge.
“As we know, in our society, child pornography is a plague,” Deshotel said. “It runs the gamut of all strata of society.”
Deshotel spoke at a news conference Wednesday regarding charges that Broussard possessed child pornography on his personal computer.
“It’s something that has to be addressed right at the beginning as soon as it’s known,” he said. “Which is why I was happy to cooperate with the state officials in dealing with that for the protection of young and innocent people.”
Transparency, informing the public and taking immediate action once something is known “are lessons that we and other institutions, public schools, the Boy Scouts — all of those have learned over the years that this is how this is addressed,” Deshotel said. “So that’s the modus operandi we use.”
Deshotel said Broussard is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Because of the serious nature of the charge, however, he was immediately placed on administrative leave until the case is fully investigated.
“If he’s guilty, he needs to follow the penalties of the state for what was done,” Deshotel said. “Then there are also ecclesiastical steps, church steps, that have to be taken with regard to his future ministry, and, whether or not that’s possible.”
Broussard has not been accused of physically abusing children, Deshotel said.
However, the bishop said, “there’s no difference. I consider child pornography child abuse because it is abusing the innocent children.”
Deshotel said parish personnel are aware of what’s expected of them and what’s not tolerated.
“The priests undergo yearly updates on safe environment in which internet protocols are gone over with them, what’s legal; what’s not legal,” he said. “Also, what’s professional on church property and all of those things.
“Everyone knows; it’s not a secret to anybody,” he said. “No one can say, 'I am surprised that this is the wrong thing to do.'”
Broussard, who has been a priest since 1993, has never before been accused of wrongdoing in his career, according to Deshotel.
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“No complaints, ever, in those 23 years. Nothing. Only good letters from people who loved him in the parish,” he said. “But this kind of illness hides itself in a person. You don’t know.”
The Lafayette Diocese came under fire and garnered national headlines in 1984 when former priest Gilbert Gauthe became the first in a string of priest sex abuse cases, accused of molesting at least 37 boys in four different parishes.
Gauthe pleaded guilty to 11 counts of child molestation and was sentenced to 20 years in 1986. He was released from prison in September 1995, 11 years early.
Former Bishop Michael Jarrell acknowledged in 2004 that the diocese and its insurers paid out $26 million in settlements to the victims of 15 priests. Calls by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to release the names of the priests was refused by Jarrell in 2014.
SNAP, which was founded in 1988 and is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims, issued a statement Wednesday in response the the child pornography charges against Broussard.
“A Lafayette priest has been arrested on child porn charges. Now, it’s up to his Catholic supervisors and colleagues to aggressively seek out anyone with suspicions or knowledge of any crimes by him and beg them to call law enforcement,” David Clohessy, Director of SNAP, wrote in an emailed statement.
"It’s not enough for church employees to claim they’re 'cooperating with authorities.' (In our experience, that usually means they’re doing the bare minimum to avoid being charged with obstruction of justice.) Catholic officials gave this volunteer access to kids. So they owe it to parents, parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public to use their vast resources to actively help law enforcement solve this case and to find and help others who may have been hurt by this volunteer.”
Deshotel said anyone involved with parish churches and schools must submit to background checks before employment.
“All of the teachers, everyone — even the priests — undergo background checks in all of our parishes and schools,” he said.
“The pastor in a parish is ultimately in charge of the school, although the principal runs the school of a parish, the pastor hires and fires the principals.”
Deshotel, who was an auxiliary bishop in Dallas before assuming leadership of the Lafayette Diocese on April 15, said he has dealt with similar situations.
“Like many institutions in society and in professional societies," he said, "we have to govern and also keep eye over professional conduct, professional boundaries that are kept in whatever profession they happen to be in — whether it’s a doctor or policeman or a priest. So we’re aware of that and we’re involved in the governance.”
Deshotel said the diocese will continue to work with state police on the investigation.
As of Wednesday, he had yet to speak with Broussard.
“I’m sure sometime in the future he will come visit with me and I will talk with him,” said Deshotel. “I am also, as bishop, a spiritual father to all the priests in the diocese.”