New lawsuit filed against Catholic Church in N.O. details alleged sexual abuse at orphanage
By Kimberly Curth
November 13, 2018
There are disturbing allegations in a new lawsuit against the Catholic Church in New Orleans. Four men have come forward claiming they endured sexual and physical abuse at the orphanage and youth home, Madonna Manor and Hope Haven, when they were boys in the late 1970s and 80s.
The men are only identified as John Roes. They’re suing the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Charities and the Salesian Society.
One alleged victim says when he was 9, he was selected to be an altar boy for Masses that were performed at the Madonna Manor Chapel. And, “during numerous different occasions at these masses, the priests took John Roe I to the chapel sacristy where he would be raped by certain visiting priests.”
He also says he was sexually assaulted on a field trip to St. Joseph’s Abbey in Covington by an unknown cleric.
The lawsuit says the sexual and physical abuse continued until he was admitted to a mental institution where he stayed for more than two years because of a severe emotional collapse.
A second plaintiff says he too was raped at Madonna Manor by a staff member. In addition to the sexual abuse, he says, “he was continuously subjected to physical abuse while he was forced to keep his hands behind his back, was struck in the head and face, and forced to kneel on rocks by the employees and staff at Madonna Manor, which frequently resulted in him being medically treated in the facility’s infirmary.”
The other two alleged victims say they were sexually abused by someone believed to be a member of the Salesian Religious Order named “Brother Harold,” who was an employee at Hope Haven.
One of those men, who suffered with a hearing deficit, was placed at Hope Haven when he was 13 because his father was dying of cancer. That man says he was also “subjected to extreme and continuous physical abuse during his time at Hope Haven at the hands of an employee he recalls as ‘Mr. Sal.’” The abuse included a kneeing in the thigh “so hard that John Roe IV suffered complete loss of muscle control.”
The Archdiocese of New Orleans recently released a list of 57 clergy members credibly accused of child sex abuse, including eight Salesian priests who had pastoral assignments at Hope Have and Madonna Manor.
But, the lawsuit says, “at no time has the Archdiocese disclosed the full list of names of the brothers, staff or employees of Hope Haven-Madonna Manor whom were accused of abusing children at Hope Haven-Madonna Manor.”
In a statement, the plaintiffs' attorneys said, "as far as a complete list of offenders, we expect that in the coming weeks we will begin to see a more complete disclosure of the names of the perpetrators through the courageous efforts of victims rather than a partial disclosure by the Archdiocese.”
We reached out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans about the new lawsuit, in a statement, the Archdiocese said, “Our prayers and concern go out to all victims of abuse, we cannot offer any comment on pending litigation.”
The Salesian Society sent the following statement:
The Salesian Society, St. Philip the Apostle Province, wishes to express its remorse for the pain and sorrow a few of its members have caused through sexual misconduct or abuse of any kind. We ask forgiveness from the victims and their families. No one, especially a child, should have had to experience the terrible effects of abuse. Our members and our communities pray for your healing and peace. We ask forgiveness as well as from those who have looked to us for good example and pastoral care but may feel their trust has been misplaced. To all those who share with us in the mission of education and evangelization of the young, and have been offended by the actions of some Salesians, we ask forgiveness.
The recent list of clergy who served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and have had credible accusations of sexual misconduct against them included the names of eight Salesians of Don Bosco. The allegations against these Salesians were made in 2006, 2008 or 2010. These allegations concern conduct alleged to have occurred in the late 1940s, the late 1950s or the early 1960s. With 2 exceptions, all those accused were dead by the time the accusation was made; as to those who were still alive, Avalone died three months after the accusation came to the Salesians, Kita died two years after the accusation came to the Salesians. Neither confirmed the allegations. Since the incidents were alleged to have occurred 50 years before the accusation was made, and since the many of the accused were deceased, the investigation of each claim was conducted to determine whether the allegations were not manifestly false or frivolous. Each of the survivors met in person with the vice provincial of the Salesians. All of the accusations have been reported to law enforcement, ecclesial authorities and an independent review board. Throughout these efforts to support the victims, the Salesians have collaborated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Catholic Charities.
The Archdiocesan list included names of clergy who had credible claims against them; it did not include religious brothers. In 2010, at the same time the Salesians received allegations of sexual misconduct by some of the priests listed by the Archdiocese, they received allegations against two Salesian brothers: Joseph Botto and Justin Guarise. The same procedures for meeting the victim and offering pastoral care were followed for both priests and religious brothers.
Like the Archdiocese of New Orleans, since 2002 and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Salesians of Don Bosco have implemented policies and procedures to ensure safe environments. No Salesian with credible accusations of misconduct is allowed to continue in ministry. As mentioned above, all allegations are reported to law enforcement, ecclesial authorities and an independent review board. Further, the Salesians have been accredited by Praesidium, Inc. for implementing the Standards of Child Protection Program
of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM). Province policies for preventing and responding to sexual abuse of a minor are available from the director of each local Salesian work. Through regular training, collaboration with dioceses and civil authorities, in keeping with the Preventive System of Don Bosco, the Salesians remain committed to ensure that young people and vulnerable adults remain safe and protected.
In addition to ensuring a safe environment for everyone in our communities and pastoral presences, Archbishop Aymond, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Salesians of Don Bosco have taken action that we pray leads to hope and healing for all. Anyone who needs to report an alleged incident of sexual abuse by a Salesian of Don Bosco or person serving in any of the works of the Salesian Province of St. Philip the Apostle is encouraged to go immediately to the district attorney or local law enforcement. You may also contact Fr. Stephen Ryan, SDB at 914-636-4225, ext. 600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consistent with our longstanding policy, the Salesians will meet in person with anyone who makes an allegation of abuse.
The Salesians of Don Bosco have served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans on the West Bank since 1933. The fact that some of our members have abused children and betrayed trust brings us shame and moves us to repentance. These horrific actions can sully the decades of good work done by many Salesians, collaborators and supporters of the mission of Don Bosco. We see this mission of education and evangelization as urgent as ever, a mission that requires of us the high standards of integrity and transparency, a mission to which we renew our commitment.