Bishop Deshotel "Considering" Release of Accused Priests" Names
By Claire Taylor
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
September 19, 2018
Bishop Douglas Deshotel of the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette said Tuesday he is considering releasing the names of priests against whom credible accusations of abuse have been alleged.
Deshotel faced about 250 people Tuesday night at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral hall in Lafayette for a discussion about sex abuse in the church.
The bishop and panel responded to some of the more than 70 questions submitted in advance, including whether the diocese will release the names of priests accused of abuse.
"I'm considering it," Deshotel replied to much applause.
The Daily Advertiser, victims abuse groups and parishioners from across the diocese have asked the past several bishops in the Diocese of Lafayette, including Deshotel, to make public the names of priests, past and present, against whom credible allegations of abuse were made or whose victims received monetary settlements from the diocese.
Asked by The Daily Advertiser in June, Deshotel — who has been bishop in Lafayette more than two years — said he was unaware of the existence of a list of accused priests.
Tuesday, he said the Diocese has a review board with law enforcement representatives, teachers, medical representatives and psychologists to advise him as he considers releasing the priests' names.
The same review board investigates whether accusations are credible and should be turned over to law enforcement, he said.
Several dioceses in the U.S. have released or published accused priests' names, Deshotel said. He will seek advice from them and other bishops in Louisiana, he said.
There are things to consider, Deshotel said, such as whether releasing the names will re-victimize the victims, distinguishing between accusations and proven abuse, and whether the accusation is made after the priest is dead and cannot defend himself.
"It takes time to assemble all that material," he said.
Panel moderator Adam Conque attempted to end the event without taking questions from the audience, saying questions not answered Tuesday would be answered via email sent to the person who submitted it.
Mary Collins spoke out in protest, saying she loves her church but the diocese is not being transparent until it answers everyone's questions. She asked how many clergy have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct in the last five years.
"I don't know," Deshotel said.
"I demand full transparency and justice," Collins said. "It's time."
"There are no priests in ministry who have been credibly accused of child abuse," Deshotel said, repeating almost verbatim what he said during a press conference in June following accusations that the Rev. Michael Guidry of St. Peter Church in Morrow had abused someone.
Guidry confessed a week later to providing a 16-year-old boy with alcohol and molesting him years ago.
On Tuesday, Quinn Hebert asked Deshotel how much church money was being used in Guidry's case, to which Deshotel said "none." He ignored a second question by Quinn about whether a monsignor had threatened the family of a priest abuse victim.
Priest sex abuse has rocked the Roman Catholic Church across the country and the globe. In the past, the church has either transferred priests from one church parish to the next or settled lawsuits by paying victims and keeping the priests' names secret.
Mary-Rose Verret, a married lay person on Tuesday's panel, said the Diocese of Lafayette was ground zero for priest sex abuse.
"Why can't Lafayette be ground zero for renewal?" she asked, to applause.
The Diocese, she said, should lead the way in transparency on a level that does not exist elsewhere.
The first publicized case of clergy sexual abuse occurred in the Diocese of Lafayette in 1983 amid accusations against the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe. Gauthe was transferred from one church parish to another. He pleaded guilty in 1985 to molesting 11 altar boys and spent less than nine years in jail.
An investigation by Minnesota Public Radio in 2014 uncovered hundreds of documents related to priest sex abuse in the Diocese of Lafayette. At least 15 priests were credibly accused or admitted to sexual abuse of minors, but former Bishop Michael Jarrell in 2014 declined to release the priests' names.
Seven were deceased, five lived outside the diocese and three lived in the diocese but were not active priests, the diocese said at the time.