Priests with Same Last Name Mixed up on New Orleans Archdiocese's List of Abusive Clergy
By Ramon Antonio Vargas
March 5, 2020
The Archdiocese of New Orleans recently dropped one priest from a list of clergymen facing credible claims of molesting children and replaced him with another priest from the same religious order who had the same last name.
Officials with the archdiocese and the religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, this week chalked up the correction to a case of mistaken identity.
Both priests are dead.
The Salesian priest now named in the list is Joseph Sokol, who was born in 1908 and died in 1970. The priest who was removed is Alfred Sokol (no relation to Joseph), who died in 2004 at age 93, after spending much of his career at New Jersey’s prestigious Don Bosco Prep.
At the center of the confusion was Marrero’s Hope Haven orphanage, the site of numerous abuse cases involving priests, nuns and other staffers for which the archdiocese, as well as other entities, paid more than $5 million to settle claims in 2009.
An obituary for Alfred Sokol said he put in a tour of duty there; the archdiocese says Joseph Sokol did as well. And one of the abuse cases included in the 2009 settlements involved a “Father Sokol,” said the Rev. Steve Ryan, who supervises Salesian priests in a region which includes the New Orleans area.
A Salesian known as Father Sokol was on the roster of accused abusive priests and deacons that New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond published in November 2018, responding to calls for transparency about the Catholic Church’s ongoing child sex abuse scandal.
However, further research revealed the wrong priest was listed, and Alfred Sokol was replaced by Joseph Sokol on Feb. 14, Ryan said.
At the same time, the “estimated timeframe of abuse” was pushed back from the 1960s and 1970s to the 1940s, and the “allegation received” date switched from 2006 to 2010.
The change wasn’t announced in a public statement. The archdiocese acknowledged the revision in a brief note dated Feb. 14 on the clergy list.
Neither Ryan nor an archdiocesan spokeswoman explained how the list came to include Alfred Sokol, who Ryan said has never been “credibly accused — anywhere.”
However, Ryan said the order determined Alfred Sokol wasn’t at the school during the years associated with the abuse claim but that Joseph Sokol was. He added that “whoever was running the office at the time” attributed the abuse to the wrong Sokol.
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said the Salesians recently called the archdiocese’s attention to the mistake.
The archdiocese’s initial list contained the names of 57 clergymen, eight of whom belonged to the Salesians. Several names have been added since 2018, though no additional Salesians.
Besides their involvement in running Hope Haven and the adjacent, equally troubled Madonna Manor orphanage, the Salesians are also known locally for founding two other Marrero institutions: Archbishop Shaw High School and Immaculate Conception School.