Well-known Ex-jesuit Employee Brother Everard Booth Named a Suspected Sex Abuser
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
February 27, 2020
A religious brother who worked several years at Jesuit High School in New Orleans — and had an endowed scholarship set up in his honor — was among four names added Thursday to a list of members of the Jesuit order suspected of sexual abuse while they worked in a region including Louisiana.
The update to the list marks the first time Jesuit officials have acknowledged they believe Everard J. Booth, who died in 1986, was an abuser.
Booth was the subject of “more than one” credible allegation, the order said. It didn’t specify where the alleged abuse occurred but said the “estimated timeframe” was in the 1960s. In a separate statement, Jesuit High officials said Thursday that the allegations do not involve students or Booth's work at the school.
Besides Jesuit High and regional administrative offices in New Orleans, Booth was stationed at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau in St. Landry Parish, as well as two colleges in the country now known as Sri Lanka.
Other names newly added to the Jesuit order’s list are priests Jose Angel Borges, James Loeffler and Benjamin Smylie, who are all dead. Of those three, Loeffler was the only one ever stationed in Louisiana, serving a stint at Grand Coteau's Christ the King Parish.
The regional Jesuits said the additions came after a consulting firm run by retired FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel finished reviewing the order’s files.
Jesuit High's statement said that audit uncovered one allegation against Booth, while a separate victim came forward more recently with another credible claim. The school said the order was keeping details of the allegations confidential at the request of the victims.
The consulting firm's review followed release of the first version of the list in December 2018 amid continued calls from the public for transparency about the Catholic Church’s clergy abuse crisis.
By then, dioceses across the country, including the Archdiocese of New Orleans, had put out similar rosters of abusive priests.
Booth held various roles at Jesuit between the 1940s and 1980s.
According to past Times-Picayune stories, he was about 17 when he joined the Jesuit order in 1934. He began working at Jesuit High in 1941, serving as an assistant to the priest in charge of Jesuit order members in New Orleans before leaving on a mission to Sri Lanka — then called Ceylon — in 1946.
He returned to New Orleans in 1961 to handle administrative duties at the Jesuit Seminary and Mission Bureau before returning to Jesuit High in 1971.
Booth served in several roles during his second stint at Jesuit High, including disciplinarian, homeroom teacher and bookstore manager. In 1982 he became the first religious brother still active at Jesuit High to win the school’s prestigious North American Martyrs Award for outstanding service.
Booth also held prominent posts with the De La Salle Council of the Knights of Columbus, including grand knight and treasurer. He was a moderator and director of activities for the Catholic Youth Organization chapter at St. Stephen’s Parish. He also served on the Archdiocesan Youth Council.
KATC in Lafayette got a statement from one of Booth's accusers. The station reported that the victim's family said Booth was at his assignment in Grand Coteau when he molested their relative.
"As a Jesuit brother, a supposed man of God, we trusted him, and he abused his position of trust to prey on the most vulnerable," the family's statement read. "We cannot think of an act of betrayal greater than this."
A religious brother is not an ordained priest but takes vows to follow a similar lifestyle.
On Feb. 23, 1986, while driving back from dropping off a priest in Metairie to celebrate Mass, Booth was hit head-on and killed by a pickup on the Tulane Avenue overpass crossing Interstate 10.
For years, Jesuit High offered a fully endowed scholarship named for Booth. However, the school said it stopped offering the scholarship upon becoming aware of his alleged abuse.
After Thursday’s revisions, the regional Jesuits’ roster of credibly accused clergy now includes 46 priests, teachers studying to be priests or religious brothers. Twenty have ties to New Orleans; about a half-dozen worked at Jesuit High in New Orleans when the abuse occurred.
Jesuit officials through the years have paid out legal settlements to people who claimed they were molested decades ago by order members or employees of the Mid-City school.
Some of the settlements have involved two school janitors who aren't on the revised list because they never belonged to the order.
Note: This post was updated to include statements from Jesuit High.