Lawsuit: Diocese of Alexandria frequently moved priest accused of sexual abuse

By Melissa Gregory
Town Talk
August 22, 2020

A man has filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Alexandria, alleging that the late Father Leo Van Hoorn sexually abused him while he was a student at a now-closed Pineville school.

A July 26, 1975, Town Talk article details an upcoming celebration of the Rev. Leo Van Hoorn's 20th year in the priesthood. Van Hoorn was named last year as one of 27 local priests who had credible accusations of sexual abuse against him. A lawsuit detailing one case against him was filed in Alexandria in early August.

[with video]

A lawsuit filed this month in Alexandria calls a Catholic priest a "diseased pedophile who raped and sexually assaulted many young boys." The priest, the Rev. Leo Van Hoorn, was among 27 named in a February 2019 letter from Bishop David P. Talley as having credible accusations of sexual abuse against minors. 

The lawsuit claims Van Hoorn, who died in 2006 at age 74 in Baton Rouge, was "moved frequently throughout the various parishes of the Diocese of Alexandria."

The Diocese of Alexandria is the sole defendant named in the lawsuit, which was recorded on Aug. 3. It has not answered the lawsuit yet, and a Friday email and telephone message seeking comment weren't immediately answered.

The victim is referred to only as Lou Doe. The alleged abuse against Doe happened in 1962-63 while the child was in the first or second grade.

The Doe family's children attended Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Pineville during the 1960s.

The school closed in the fall of 1971, according to a July 11, 1971, Town Talk article. Poor finances led to the closure, according to the article.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, which was opened in 1933, remains on Lakeview Street in Pineville.

A Diocesan Permanent Review Board comprised of clergy and lay people dug into 535 files of clergy who worked in the diocese in its various configurations dating back to its 1853 establishment.

Talley's list didn't detail where the priests worked, but did give details about the allegations against them.

Van Hoorn was accused in the sexual abuse of two minor males, one in 1967. It's not known if the case from this lawsuit is from the other allegation against Van Hoorn, who was suspended from active ministry in 1979 and retired as a priest in 1983.

The lawsuit states that Doe and family were devout Catholics who became friends with Van Hoorn since the children attended Sacred Heart. Van Hoorn, a native of The Netherlands, spent almost his entire career with the diocese and in Louisiana, it reads.

Van Hoorn "ingratiated" himself to the family, becoming friends with the parents by giving gifts to them and the children. He often stayed at their home for dinner and sometimes overnight, it reads.

In fact, the priest even recuperated at the family's home after "electroshock treatments for significant emotional and psychological disorders," it reads.

The alleged abuse happened at the family's home, in Doe's bedroom, while the rest of the family slept.

Doe later sought professional help until late last year once he became sure it was Van Hoorn who had abused him, reads the lawsuit.

Town Talk archives provide details about Van Hoorn's service within the diocese.

In addition to Sacred Heart, his obituary states he served at St. Joseph in Mansfield and Marksville, Our Lady of Prompt Succor in Alexandria and Immaculate Heart in Tioga. He was chaplain at St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, St. Anthony in Bunkie and St. Catherine in Shreveport.

Another article, from July 26, 1975, details plans to honor Van Hoorn for his 20th anniversary in the priesthood. At that time, he was assistant pastor at Immaculate Heart in Tioga, it reads.

A dark photo with the article shows Van Hoorn sitting at a desk in front of a typewriter.

The lawsuit accuses the diocese of multiple counts of negligence, fraudulent concealment and being a public nuisance. It alleges that the diocese has not been open regarding Van Hoorn's history and kept specific allegations against him from the public and parishoners for years.

It contends that and other actions go against the so-called Dallas charter, a policy enacted in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It claims the diocese didn't reach out to any of Van Hoorn's alleged victims, including Doe, until last year, and that the diocese "has attempted to impugn victims' credibility, character and veracity in direct contradiction of those pronouncements."

No court dates have been set in the case.

At least one other lawsuit has been filed against a priest on the list released last year by the diocese. In January, a man identified as Paul Doe filed the lawsuit accusing the late Rev. William Allison of sexually abusing him when he was a primary school student at Our Lady of Fatima in Monroe.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.