Vatican summit on sexual abuse has its roots in Cajun country

By Kim Chatelain
February 20, 2019

Father Gilbert Gauthe was assigned to St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Henry, La., near Erath in the 1980s when he was indicted for abusing dozens of young boys. Photographed Wednesday, February 13, 2019.
Photo by Brett Duke

Pope Francis’ four-day global summit to discuss the crisis facing the Roman Catholic Church over sexual abuse scandals starts Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019.
Photo by Andrew Medichini

Gilbert Gauthe in 2018.

Ray Mouton is a former Lafayette attorney who was the defense lawyer for priest Gilbert Gauthe, the first Catholic clergyman in the U.S. to be indicted for repeatedly sexually abusing children. After representing Gauthe, Mouton was involved in trying to alert church hierarchy about the clergy abuse issue. Photographed on February 17, 2019.
Photo by Brett Duke

Hope Haven orphanage in Marrero in 1986.

In the fall of 1984, Mouton said he got a call that came at the behest of Raymond “Coach” Blanco, at the time an administrator at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette and an adviser to the Diocese of Lafayette. Blanco, who would become the state’s “first gentleman” when his wife Kathleen Blanco   became governor in 2004, had apparently recommended Mouton for an offer that would change Mouton’s life. 

“He ( a diocese official) asked if I wanted to defend a priest accused of abusing children and I jumped on the case out of vanity and greed,” Mouton recalled during a January interview in Harvey, repeating a line he has shared over the years with others. “I knew the church had deep pockets and I knew it would be a high-profile case.” 

Mouton flew out to the psychiatric facility in Massachusetts for a face-to-face meeting with his client, whom he remembers as being nondescript – muted in both affect and appearance. 

“When I met Father Gilbert Gauthe the first time, I was confused by his demeanor and repelled by the things he said,” Mouton recalled, describing how the pedophile priest spoke calmly about the children he had sodomized.  

Before long, Mouton was up to his neck in what would mushroom into a major scandal for the church. In researching the case, the Lafayette lawyer realized Gauthe was one of many Catholic priests who had abused boys. 

By mid-1985, the diocese and its insurance companies had paid nearly $5 million to settle claims made against Gauthe, who was around 40 years old at the time. Going through the court records, Mouton discovered horrifying details about abuse involving Gauthe. Mouton also discovered that the clergy abuse issue, which had been shrouded in secrecy, reached far beyond the Diocese of Lafayette to other parts of the country. 

Before long, investigative reporter Jason Berry and other journalists at the Times of Acadiana newspaper began to unearth details of Gauthe’s crimes. In May of 1985, the Times published Berry’s exposé into the diocese’s secret under the headline “The Tragedy of Gilbert Gauthe.” The national media caught a whiff and the lid was being blown off.



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