Group Demands Local Diocese Add New Name to List of Credibly Accused Abusers

By Dan Copp
Daily Advertiser
September 4, 2020

A group that advocates for Catholic Church sex abuse victims is asking the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux to add a new name to its list of “credibly accused” priests.

On Aug. 18, Archbishop Gregory P. Aymond added the Rev. Henry Brian Highfill to the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ list of priests with credible accusations of child sexual abuse.

Now, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, is asking local Bishop Shelton Fabre to do the same.

Highfill, who now lives in Las Vegas, served at St. Frances de Sales in Houma in 1975, according to New Orleans SNAP leader Kevin Bourgeois. The 78-year-old priest has been accused of abusing children from 1975 to 1981.

“It is well-documented that the vast majority of child predators abuse multiple children, multiple times,” Bourgeois said in a letter addressed to Fabre on Tuesday. “We urge Bishop Fabre to notify the good people in the Houma-Thibodaux diocese of the allegations against Fr. Highfill. If there were innocent children who fell victim to him, SNAP is here to support and validate their years of anguish. We stand with all survivors of clergy sex crimes and their families.”

Fabre could not be reached for comment at press time.

The Diocese of Las Vegas also added Highfill to its list of credibly accused abusers. Church officials in Las Vegas said Highfill’s name was added to the list based on allegations brought forward in other dioceses and that it received no complaints against Highfill during his time in Nevada.

According to online public records, Highfill still lives in Las Vegas. He could not be reached for comment. His Thibodaux attorney, Michael Zerlin, also could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux confirmed Highfill served briefly at St. Frances de Sales in 1975 before transferring to another church.

The Houma-Thibodaux diocese was formed in 1977, two years after Highfill left Houma.

Bourgeois suspects there could be more victims who have not yet come forward.

“SNAP’s purpose is to notify the people who live in the Thibodaux-Houma area to know this guy is still alive and breathing and lives in Las Vegas,” Bourgeois said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He was moved from parish to parish then was sent to the Archdiocese for the Military. Pedophiles don’t strike once. They strike hundreds of times. So it’s questionable why he was moved from Houma to New Orleans. History and precedent tell us that when a parent tells the bishop their son or daughter came to them with an accusation, the priest is moved to another parish. There’s a reason for all of that mobility.”

The Diocese of Las Vegas said it was contacted on Aug. 27, 2018, by someone with “secondary information” alleging Highfill had abused a now deceased close relative.

Las Vegas church officials said they suspended Highfill on Aug. 28, 2018, following an investigation. The Archdiocese in New Orleans suspended him in November of 2018.

“The estimated time of abuse was between 1975 and 1981 and to date there has been no accusation or information of any incidents in Las Vegas,” Nevada church officials said.

Bourgeois said it’s important for Highfill’s name to appear on the local diocese list because it could inspire others to come forward.

“The bishop should add him to the list because people who live in Houma-Thibodaux may look at that list at some point and say, ‘Oh, my God, my brother was there and I wonder if that’s why he took his own life.’ The average age for people to come forward with being sexually abused as a child or adolescent is 52. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s been documented that child abuse in the Catholic Church has been going on since the fourth century.”

To see the list of priests who have been credibly accused abuse in the Houma-Thibodaux diocese, click here.








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