Archdiocese of New Orleans Removes Priest Accused of Raping, Abusing Minor during Church Retreat
By Tiffany Baptiste and Olivia Vidal
January 27, 2021
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Archdiocese of New Orleans says they have removed a priest from ministry following allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
Officials say the archdiocese was informed of a lawsuit against Fr. John Asare-Dankwah alleging that he abused a minor during a church retreat in 2008.
In the lawsuit filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court Wednesday, the victim, who is identified as A.A. Doe, says he was 10-years-old when he attended a church retreat with Fr. Asare.
The victim served as a youth minister and lecter at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, where Fr. Asare served as pastor at the time.
According to the victim, on the fifth day of the seven-day retreat in Montgomery, Alabama, Fr. Asare approached the victim during penance inside of the chapel and asked him if he love him and God. Upon hearing the confession, the priest allegedly pulled down his pants and exposed himself to the victim before directing the victim to come to him.
The victim says he refused the advances twice before Fr. Asare grabbed him and pulled him into contact with his body. Fr. Asare then allegedly held the victim down and raped him.
According to the victim, Fr. Asare pulled him out of his bed the following morning and dragged him into another room where he proceeded to strike the victim repeatedly while praying and accusing the victim of being a homosexual.
After, Fr. Asare allegedly told the victim to recite the Catholic confessional prayers to be absolved of his sins.
Following the retreat, the victim says he did not tell anyone because of shame, disgust, humiliation and fear.
“It’s always as heinous as the very first time I’ve heard the story,” says Desiree Charbonnet, the lawyer representing the victim in the lawsuit. “The fact that this happened during the holy sacrament of penance or confession as we call it, it just blows my mind.”
The victim reported the abuse after attending his grandmother’s funeral in Vacherie, Louisiana on September 24, 2020. The victim’s grandmother was a parishioner of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church where Fr. Asare most recently served as the pastor.
During the homily of the funeral, the victim says Fr. Asare made comments about him after not seeing him in more than a decade.
Following the funeral, the victim says he experienced a flashback of the alleged abuse causing him to experience a psychotic break that lead to him making deranged phone calls to friends and family members, disappearing from his home for three days with no memory of it after, being found nude on a stanger’s front lawn, being arrested by police and later being hospitalized in the Behavioral Health Ward at Universisty Medical Center.
According to the lawsuit, the victim continues to receive intensive mental health therapy and medication.
Kevin Bourgeouis with the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, says in many cases of abuse, victims don’t come forward for decades and the effects from the trauma can be, and often time, life altering.
“It’s devastating to your belief system. Your belief in God. Your belief in the Catholic Church and most of us don’t ever go back to church,” says Bourgeouis.
He notes that the average age of a victim of church abuse to come forward is 52-years-old. In this case, the alleged victim came forward just over a decade after the alleged crime took place.
“I salute this man for doing it. And he had my admiration and respect and an ear to be there for him,” says Bourgeouis.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans says they did not have prior knowledge of the abuse or the lawsuit before it was filed Wednesday.
Fr. Asare has been removed from the ministry effective immediately pending the outcome of the investigation.
“Justice is served. Hopefully when these priests are charged criminally, because of what this particular priest did to my client was a crime,” says Charbonnet.
The archdioceses says they contacted Fr. Asare about the allegations Wednesday evening. He is currently out of the country on vacation in Ghana.
The Archdiocese says they are making sure law enforcement is aware of the lawsuit and allegations.
Read the full lawsuit below.