Disgraced Jesuit High Janitor, Hired Despite Molestation Conviction, Named in New 1980s Abuse Claim

By Ramon Antonio Vargas
Times Picayune
August 5, 2019

Former New Orleans baseball star Peter Modica walked into a Jefferson Parish courtroom on May 9, 1963, and admitted that he had performed oral sex on two 13-year-old boys several weeks earlier at the Metairie playground he supervised.

After serving five years of probation for the crimes, Modica somehow landed a job as a head janitor at the all-boys Jesuit High School in New Orleans, where he abused minors again.

On Monday, a 49-year-old man came forward to say he was just 11 when Modica began molesting him on Jesuit’s campus in the early 1980s. His statements occurred about a year after another man — who also said he was victimized by Modica — went public with the financial settlement he received from the Jesuit order, which runs the school.

Speaking at his attorney's office, the man — who asked to not be named because few people know he was molested — said he plans to file a lawsuit against Jesuit in the coming days.

He said the leaders of the school when he was a boy failed to protect him from Modica, who they should have known was a child predator.

“Why wasn’t something done back then?” asked the man, whose claims were found to be credible by both a local social worker and a Massachusetts psychologist who interviewed him earlier this summer, according to documents provided by attorney Roger Stetter. “They knew (about him) years before he got to me.”

A spokesman for Jesuit, whose current administrators were not in office when Modica allegedly molested the boys, said the school couldn't “comment on prospective litigation” but added, “We are saddened by any stories of abuse.”

Previously, the school has said the Catholic Church’s child abuse crisis has prompted the institution to adopt more stringent measures to make its campus safer for all students and visitors.

A draft of the six-page lawsuit that Stetter has drawn up explains how Modica would talk with his client ?— who lived near Jesuit but wasn’t a student at the school ?— about Modica’s career as a relief pitcher with the defunct, minor-league New Orleans Pelicans baseball team.

It says Modica groomed the boy, as well as other boys, by buying them treats or giving them pocket change for performing errands on Jesuit’s campus, where Modica was the director of janitorial services. He would also let the children play pickup sports games on the campus.

Modica invited Stetter’s client to his office to view some baseball memorabilia, where he abused him for the first time, performing oral sex on him, the draft lawsuit said. Modica allegedly told the frightened and humiliated boy that what had happened ?— “their secret” ?— was “perfectly normal.”

On subsequent occasions, Modica forced the boy to perform oral sex on him and raped him anally, the draft lawsuit says. Stetter’s client said Modica abused him until he was 13, threatening to harm his younger brother if he started avoiding Modica.

“He would tell me … he would just replace me with my baby brother,” said Stetter’s client, who sobbed at one point Monday.

He said he has since struggled with depression, anxiety, an inability to trust others, and academic and professional underachievement as a result of his abuse, which he remembered when reports about Modica began circulating in the news media last year.

“Had that not happened to me, the sky would have been the limit,” the man said.

The account from Stetter’s client shares similarities with that of Richard Windmann, who in September recounted how the Jesuit order paid him $450,000 when he confronted it about the abuse he said he suffered as a teen at the hands of Modica on several occasions in the late 1970s.

Windmann, who also lived close to the school but didn’t attend it, said a now-dead priest named Cornelius Carr participated in his abuse in one instance. He reached his settlement after the Jesuit order had settled other 1970s-era abuse claims, implicating other employees at the Mid-City campus such as Donald Dickerson ?— a teacher who was studying to be a priest ?— and a religious brother named Claude Ory.

Carr, Dickerson and Ory were among 19 dead or inactive members of the Jesuit order with New Orleans-area ties who were on a list of suspected molesters which the order released in December.

The release was intended to satisfy calls for transparency in the wake of an ever-expanding Catholic clergy abuse scandal that first boiled over in Boston in 2002 and flared anew last year when a Pennsylvania grand jury published a report exposing hundreds of previously undisclosed cases.

Modica, who died in 1993 at age 69, was not on that list because he was neither a Jesuit priest nor studying to become one. He also was not a religious brother for the order.

One of the jobs he had after his baseball career was to supervise Delta Playground, an appointment announced in The Times-Picayune in May 1962.

He resigned from that job after he exposed himself to two 13-year-old boys at the playground and performed oral sex on them 10 months later. He ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of contributing to the delinquency of minors, obscenity and crimes against nature, according to newly discovered court records.

Besides working at Jesuit, Modica was a member of the University of New Orleans’ athletic field maintenance crew, his obituary said.

It was unclear Monday whether Jesuit’s decision to hire Modica after he pleaded guilty to abusing two boys might factor into the case that Stetter’s client plans to bring to court.

Stetter said he has two more clients with claims of abuse involving Jesuit that they intend to press in the coming weeks.

In addition to Windmann and Stetter’s new clients, other people have either settled ?— or are in the process of privately settling ?— other abuse claims against Jesuit that implicate Modica and Carr, multiple sources with knowledge of the cases said.

One such claimant met with Jesuit officials in early July. But a source said he temporarily walked away from the negotiating table after he said the figure Jesuit was offering him for his abuse was “not even remotely close” to the amounts other survivors had received.

The Jesuit spokesman on Monday wouldn't discuss any ongoing or completed mediation efforts, saying, “We have a process in place for people to come forward to tell their story, and we are committed to that process.”








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