Former New Orleans deacon George Brignac accused of sexually abusing another boy
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
December 11, 2018
|George Brignac, pictured in a Holy Rosary yearbook photo from the early 1980s.|
Plaintiff in this case grew up to be volunteer firefighter from North Carolina
A volunteer firefighter from North Carolina alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that he was sexually abused numerous times as a seventh-grader in New Orleans by George Brignac, a former Catholic Church deacon and suspected serial child molester.
Echoing other cases against the disgraced clergyman, Morris Daniels’ suit also contends that he is owed monetary damages because local Catholic officials failed to protect him from Brignac, who was assigned to the plaintiff’s school after being tried — though acquitted — on charges that he abused a child while teaching elsewhere.
The lawsuit comes amid a new focus on decades-old clerical abuse alleged to have occurred in New Orleans and a push by victims to bring the allegations into the open. It follows the release last month by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond of a list of 57 credibly accused clergy, including Brignac, and the Jesuit order's release last week of a similar list.
In the past, victims have often preferred to follow a private mediation process to settle sex-abuse claims involving the church, including a number of others who have accused Brignac.
But Daniels is among a growing group of plaintiffs in New Orleans and elsewhere who have taken such claims to the courts in an effort to shed light on alleged abuse and the church's failure to stop it.
"They could’ve done something about it, but they didn’t," Daniels said in an interview. "They didn’t take care of us as kids. They just let it happen."
The events described by Daniels, now 49, took place at Holy Rosary School in 1982, the same place and time period as in a suit brought against Brignac earlier this year that the Archdiocese of New Orleans settled for more than $500,000. Roger Stetter, the attorney who represented the plaintiff in that case, is also representing Daniels.
Two more men who attended Holy Rosary during that same era have lodged separate suits accusing Brignac, now 83, of assaulting them. Those plaintiffs are represented by other attorneys.
Brignac has retained attorney Martin Regan, a well-known criminal defense lawyer. Regan on Tuesday said his client "has denied the allegations, and he's not been charged or convicted of any criminal offense" in connection with the recent suits.
The Advocate typically doesn't name victims of sexual abuse, but Daniels gave the newspaper permission to identify him.
Daniels’ five-page suit in Orleans Parish Civil District Court notes that local Catholic officials assigned Brignac to teach math and science at Holy Rosary in the 1970s even after he stood trial, and was acquitted, in Jefferson Parish on charges that he molested boys at St. Matthew the Apostle.
Daniels spent only one year at Holy Rosary. At the time, he was being raised by his older brother while they lived at his grandmother’s home, he said. He was teased for being overweight, but Brignac would stand up for him and cheer him up by taking him to buy treats at a store near the school, he said.
Before long, Daniels said, Brignac followed him into a second-floor bathroom stall and masturbated while he touched the boy’s genitals. He said the abuse escalated in subsequent encounters, with Brignac raping him and forcing him to have oral sex.
Daniels’ lawsuit says Brignac also took the boy in his car to City Park and assaulted him in the backseat.
According to his suit, as he grew up, Daniels repressed memories of Brignac's actions. It says he recovered the memories after seeing news coverage this year of the Brignac settlement. Stories noted that Brignac had been removed from ministry in 1988 but nonetheless had been taking part in services at St. Mary Magdalen Church until this summer.
Although statutes of limitation can bar plaintiffs from seeking damages over long-ago actions, attorneys have successfully argued in some cases that those shouldn’t apply if memories of the events weren’t recovered until recently.
Daniels’ suit argues that the Archdiocese of New Orleans owes him an unspecified amount. It does not name Brignac as an individual defendant.
The abuse robbed Daniels of his self-esteem and shattered his boyhood dream of becoming a priest, according to the lawsuit, which blames the archdiocese for placing Brignac at Holy Rosary.
The lawsuit adds that Daniels suffered “post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, panic attacks, inability to trust others and enjoy normal sexual relations, lack of self-control and a variety of other psychological ailments … (as well as) under-achievement in school and at work.”
In an interview with The Advocate, Daniels elaborated, saying he traced drug problems and multiple failed marriages to Brignac's abuse. He and his present wife, Angie, said they were frustrated that a criminal investigation into Brignac that was announced months ago has not yielded charges.
They hope that Daniels’ coming forward publicly will pressure authorities into acting while also making it more difficult for people to ignore the signs of child abuse.
“As a firefighter, I’ve been through the wringer — dealt with dead bodies, severed limbs. I even had to pull my own children out of a crashed car with the Jaws of Life” tool, said Daniels, who lives in Staley, North Carolina.
“I thought I’d done the hardest things in life possible,” he continued. “But ... having these memories flood back, having to explain what’s happened to me to my (loved ones) has been the hardest thing in my life."
His suit contains a signed statement from a licensed clinical social worker who interviewed Daniels and found "a reasonable basis that George Brignac subjected (him) to criminal sexual molestation during his childhood."