Updated: Will Bishop Deshotel release names of past abusive priests?
By Claire Taylor
June 04, 2018
|Bishop Douglas Deshotel of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, at a news conference Monday, June 4, 2018.|
Photo by Claire Taylor
|Defrocked priest Gilbert Gauthe leaves jail in 2000.|
Bishop Douglas Deshotel would not commit Monday to releasing the names of priests in the Diocese of Lafayette whose sexual abuse victims received settlements.
The Daily Advertiser, during a news conference Monday, asked Deshotel to release the list of priests whose sexual abuse victims were paid settlements by the diocese or its insurers.
In 2014, Bishop Michael Jarrell said the Diocese of Lafayette and its insurers paid $26 million to 123 victims of priest sex abuse between 1950 and 2002.
This occurred after sworn statements from the 1990s alleging abuse by local priests came to light.
At that time, The Daily Advertiser followed by an advocacy group asked Jarrell to release the priests' names.
Monsignor Richard Green in 2014 responded that the diocese would not release the priests' names. He said, "Bishop Jarrell sees no purpose in such action."
Deshotel, questioned Monday by The Advertiser, said he was unaware of such a list or if he could release it.
"I don't know of any who are still living or functioning that was a perpetrator," he said. "I can research it and try to find out. I know we don't have any today."
Asked again by The Advertiser if he would consider researching and releasing the names of priests accused of sexual abuse whose victims received payments from the Church, Deshotel said, "If I knew it, yes."
In the past, the diocese or its insurers have paid settlements to priests' victims, but the files containing details of the alleged abuse and settlements has not been made public. Unless priests are charged by law enforcement, the records of the Church are private.
Victims group call on Diocese to release names of known abusers
SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, released a statement Monday in response to Deshotel's replies to The Advertiser's questioning.
"With all due respect, whether or not a known abuser is still an active priest is hardly the only public safety concern," Melanie Jula Sakoda, volunteer secretary of the SNAP board of directors wrote.
"While these men may no longer be priests, they may still be working in fields that give them access to vulnerable," she wrote. "The Church should be concerned about the safety of all children, not just Catholic youth.
"Knowing the names and whereabouts of these men will allow all parents to better protect their children."
Releasing the names, Sakoda wrote, sometimes gives victims some comfort to know they weren't the only ones abused.
SNAP urged Deshotel to do what Jarrell refused to do, publish the names of all abusive priests in the diocesan files.
No prior complaints against accused priest
Diocesan records for the Rev. Michael Guidry, a church pastor accused last week of sexual abuse of a minor, show no prior complaints, Deshotel said at the news conference Monday.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette issued a news release Saturday stating the diocese was informed of an allegation of abuse of a minor by Guidry.
As a result, Guidry, 75, was placed on administrative leave pending investigations by the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and the diocese.
Sexual abuse accusation involves one victim and one incident, bishop said
Deshotel said Monday he believes the single alleged sexual abuse incident occurred at St. Peter Church parish, which is located in the St. Landry Parish community of Morrow. The congregation is "very small," he said, with 75 to 100 families.
Guidry also is pastor of Resurrection Chapel in the community of Whiteville, also in St. Landry Parish. That congregation consists of about 50 families.
Guidry has served at St. Peter Church about nine years, Deshotel said. The alleged victim is now an adult.
According to the St. Peter Church website, Guidry was born and raised in Rayne. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1971 at St. John Cathedral in Lafayette. In 1976, he was appointed pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Scott. He has served in other parishes throughout the diocese.
The church will assist the accused priest in paying his attorney
The parents of the alleged victim, who is male, along with the pastor of a church the family currently attends in Ville Platte, notified the diocese last week of the alleged abuse incident, Deshotel said.
The bishop did not personally meet with the alleged victim or his parents, nor did he meet with Guidry, Deshotel said
The church, he said, will provide partial payment to Guidry's attorney and assist the priest in locating an attorney who specializes in church law. The diocese is required by church law to assist accused priests in determining if an accusation is a crime or not.
No priests credibly accused of abuse remain with the diocese, Deshotel said.
First big case of priest sexual abuse occurred in Acadiana
By many accounts, the first major cases of priest sex abuse were exposed after 2000 in Boston and Minnesota. But one of the earliest cases of priest pedophilia actually occurred in South Louisiana.
Gilbert Gauthe's case drew nationwide attention in the 1980s. Gauthe, a priest at the time, admitted raping or sodomizing more than 35 victims as early as 1972 in Broussard, New Iberia, Abbeville and Henry.
Gauthe, who was transferred from church parish to church parish, pleaded guilty in 1986 to 11 counts of child molestation. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but only served 10 years.