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Louisiana Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer

Louisiana Attorneys Investigating Sexual Assault Claims Against the Roman Catholic Church Archdioceses & Priests

Are you the victim of clergy sexual abuse? Have you remained silent over what occurred? Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury lawyers, serve as legal advocates to child victims of sexual molestation and handle all cases, including those involving abuse occurring decades ago.

Call our New Orleans sexual abuse attorneys at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free confidential consultation. All information you discuss with your Louisiana clergy sexual abuse lawyer will remain private through an attorney-client relationship.

While the Roman Catholic Church promotes itself as a safe community to enjoy worship and religious education, things are not always what they seem. In recent years, Church officials have had to reckon with their previous behavior of covering up evidence that predatory priests in their parishes were sexually abusing adults and underage minors.

Many of the horrors associated with the sexual predators caused years of victim shame and humiliation who told survivors to remain silent or suffer the consequences.

Not every sexual abuse survivor can speak out about the horrific assault they experienced until months or years later. If you or your loved one is the victim of sexual assault, the compassionate network of affiliate attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, can provide immediate legal assistance.

Our law firm will fight on your behalf to protect your rights and provide a safe place to talk about what happened. Our Catholic Church sexual assault attorneys will listen to your story and take quick legal action. Let our comprehensive knowledge of Louisiana tort law build a successful case to ensure the sexual perpetrator who caused your injuries faces their consequences.

Clergy Sexual Assault Remains a Problem

In 2019, the diocese of Lafayette released its list of religious clergy, including deacons and priests that had credible accusations of sexual abuse involving vulnerable adults and minor children.

However, the record was not complete and was missing many of the details that were important to parishioners and victims, including the date of the incident, the allegation description, whether it occurred multiple times, and if law enforcement filed charges.

Additionally, the list did not name any nuns, sisters, or lay individuals, including religion teachers, coaches, and choir directors who are alleged to have had inappropriate sexual behaviors. A previous list identified sixteen reverends who had credible, serious accusations filed against them.

New Louisiana Law Extends Filing Deadlines for Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

In June 2021, the Louisiana legislative body opened a three-year window, extending the length of time for child sex abuse survivors to pursue legal action no matter how old the claim. In both the Senate and the House, lawmakers unanimously approved the new law creating a three-year window for all unresolved child sex claims.

Representative Jason Hughes (De-New Orleans) sponsored House Bill 492, a significant victory for child sex abuse victims harmed by Louisiana Catholic clergy. Governor John Bel Edwards signed the child sexual abuse bill into law on June 14, 2021, allowing it to go into effect on August 1, 2021.

Originally, child sex abuse victims had until the 28th birthday to file a child sexual abuse lawsuit against the sexual predator and the responsible religious institution that covered up what occurred. Now, survivors of clergy sexual abuse with unresolved claims have unlimited time to file their cases in civil court to seek justice and financial compensation.

Numerous other states have adopted the statute changes and window extensions, including California, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina. In addition, each of the states created a “look back” window.

In addition to giving sexual abuse survivors a renewed chance in pursuing legal action to seek justice will also provide future victims opportunities to hold their sexual predators accountable, even if it takes years to realize they were sexually abused.

A spokesperson for Governor Edwards stated that “the scars of childhood sexual abuse may stay with survivors long-term, and they deserve more time to report these devastating crimes.”

The Child USA advocacy Director Kathryn Robb stated that “not only will this [law] for victims of horrific child sexual abuse justice, but it will also make the children of Louisiana safer. The light of truth is both healing and protective. Bravo to Louisiana.”

Unfortunately, even with the new law, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has been mostly insulated from any future lawsuits over the clergy/child sex abuse scandal.

In 2020, the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed paperwork in bankruptcy court, giving people until March 1, 2021, to file a compensation claim for being sexually prayed upon by religious leaders or lose their legal rights for compensation forever.

The Devastating Effects of Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual assaulting anyone can cause lifelong devastation that negatively alters the victim’s well-being. Children and adults who have been sexually assaulted can suffer from significant sleeping disorders, ongoing depression, substance abuse, self-injury, and suicide, including suicidal ideation (thinking about suicide).

Young children and teenage victims who were sexually abused might develop negative eating habits, begin living an over-sexualized lifestyle, or engage in any form of risky behavior due to inappropriate sexual conduct with adults.

Research shows that child sex abuse produces severe consequences and wide-ranging lifelong changes that survivors will endure throughout their adult life. In addition, sexual abuse occurring during early developmental years creates psychological changes that likely increase becoming a victim of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse again in their lifetime by 400%.

Adult children who were sexually abused during their childhood will often develop complex relationships with partners, friends, and family members. Their previous experiences make it difficult to talk about what happened or form trusting, intimate relationships for dating, marriage, and raising families.

Many times, the sexual predator was a close friend of the family, family member, or person of authority, making it difficult for the family to accept what happened. An inappropriate response by any family member could change the family dynamics and make the survivor feel responsible for disrupting home life.

Get Help

According to statistics, one and six boys and one in four girls will be sexually assaulted through inappropriate sexual contact, exposure to pornographic images, or inappropriate touching by their 18th birthday.

The Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Abuse at (225) 372-8995 maintains a state crisis hotline that provides immediate support. In addition, the New Orleans Family Justice Center at (504) 592-4005 offers emotional and mental counseling and education on pursuing justice to hold the sexual predator and religious institution accountable.

Department of Children & Family Services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at (855) 452-5437 (855-4 LA-KIDS)

The Sexually Abused

According to the BishopAccountability.org database, 95 religious clergy members from the Catholic Church have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct involving underage minors and vulnerable adults. Some of these cases date back decades, where the predators are no longer alive.

In recent years, the Catholic Church, and other organizations compiled a list of clergy members serving in the diocese of Alexandria, Diocese of Lafayette, Diocese of Baton Rouge, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux an archdiocese of New Orleans of clergy and other laypersons facing credible allegations of sexual abuse.

Many of these cases involve Catholic churches and schools and religious leaders in positions of power who knew of the clergy sexual abuse in their midst and remained silent. Numerous victims state that the Catholics and other religious organizations were informed of the sexual abuse and supposedly conducted internal investigations.

However, the sexual abuse victims state that the investigations were never intended to be thorough, gather facts, and get to the truth. In many cases, the church leaders failed to report the allegations of sexual abuse to proper authorities as required by law.

Deacon Shawn Jude Gautreaux

In June 2021, the Diocese of Lafayette placed Deacon Gautreaux on a leave of absence pending an investigation into accusations of childhood sexual abuse. Dicey and leaders say that the alleged sexual abuse occurred many years before the Church ordained Gautreaux as a Deacon last year.

Deacon Shawn Gautreaux was assigned to the Breaux Bridge St. Bernard Catholic Church in St. Martin Parish when the accusations were made. Church officials notified local law enforcement of the allegations.

Father Pat Wattigny

In October 2020, Georgia police arrested Reverend Pat Wattigny of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church in Slidell, LA, on a St. Tammany Parish warrant. The warrant accused the Reverend of sexually abusing an underage child while at the Slidell Church.

Three weeks earlier, Father Wattigny allegedly admitted to the New Orleans archdiocese that he had begun sexually assaulting an underage teenage boy in 2013. The local District Attorney’s Office charged Wattigny with four counts of molestation of the juvenile that stem from inappropriate activity of a sexual nature with the same juvenile.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s office stated that the priest began grooming the young teenager when he was 15 years old, first with conversations, followed by phone calls, text messages, and private visits. Investigators state that the then 46-year-old Father Wattigny allegedly molested a teenage boy at least four times between Christmas Eve 2013 and New Year’s Eve 2015.

Some of those inappropriate sexual activities occurred in the church rectory when Wattigny was the Saint Luke the Evangelist pastor. In the first few days of October 2020, Archbishop Gregory Aymond removed the priest from his public ministry. Church leaders notifying local police set the stage for his arrest in Georgia at a residence he owns in Troup County.

According to Louisiana law, any individual in a “position of power or supervision” over underage children engaging in sexual activity with a child can be booked for “molestation of the juvenile.”

At the time of Wattigny’s alleged inappropriate sexual activity, his sexual abuse victim was older than 13 but younger than 17, meaning the priest could face between five and 20 years in prison if found guilty on the charges.

Gilbert Gauthe

Over three decades ago, the now-former Lafayette Diocese Father Gilbert Gauthe admitted to sexually assaulting 37 underage males while working in God’s ministry for the Catholic Church. At the time of his arrest, be he became the first American Catholic priest to face public scrutiny when facing charges of child sexual abuse.

Reverend Gauthe negotiated a plea bargain and received a twenty-year prison sentence but served ten years before relocating to Texas. However, the District Attorney's Office charged him in Texas with abusing a three-year-old male child.

In 1997, he received probation after pleading guilty to injuring the boy and was sentenced to jail in Galveston County between 2008 and 2010 for violating the state’s sex registry requirements.

The Catholic dioceses in the United States have already resolved hundreds of clergy sex abuse cases totaling more than $3 billion for incidents occurring over the last several decades. However, that number is expected to rise significantly in the months and years ahead as many more victims pursue legal action against the sexual predator that caused them harm and the Church that covered up what happened.

Louisiana Roman Catholic Church Diocese

In Louisiana, the Catholic Church is the single largest religious group of all faiths statewide. The Archdiocese of New Orleans, six dioceses, and their Bishops manage 474 churches and 185 Catholic schools across Louisiana (listed below). The Church provides services to hundreds of thousands of registered Catholics living in sixty-four parishes (counties).

Louisiana Dioceses

Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette

1408 Carmel Dr
Lafayette, LA 70501
(337) 261-5500
Bishop: J. Douglas Deshotel

Roman Catholic Diocese of Shreveport

3500 Fairfield Ave
Shreveport, LA 71104
(318) 868-4441
dioshpt.org

Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria

4400 Coliseum Blvd
Alexandria, LA 71303
(318) 445-2401
Cathedral: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge

1800 S Acadian Thruway
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Bishop: Michael Duca

Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles

414 Iris St
Lake Charles, LA 70601
Phone: (337) 439-7400
Bishop: Glen Provost
Cathedral: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

7887 Walmsley Ave
New Orleans, LA 70125
(504) 861-6200
Bishop: Gregory Michael Aymond

Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma Thibodaux

2779 LA-311
Schriever, LA 70395
Bishop: Shelton Fabre
Phone: (985) 868-7720

A Louisiana Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawyer Is Ready to Help

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our clergy sexual abuse attorneys understand the challenges you face when talking about the vile actions of what a clergy member did to you. We know the power of the Catholic Church in their continuing to fight back, saying nothing happened about the child victims of sexual abuse.

However, with our legal team on your side, you will never face them alone. Our law firm can assure you that your shocking story will be heard by all those responsible when settling your case or presenting evidence at trial.

Our law firm can help you seek medical treatment, provide legal advice, and start working on your lawsuit today. Talk to us now so we can begin filing all the necessary paperwork. Taking legal action against a clergy member might stop the sexual abuse of others in the future.

We will successfully resolve your case, obtain financial compensation, and protect your rights. Contact us now at (888) 424-5757. All information you share during an initial, free confidential consultation concerning your case will remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.

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Many victims have already resolved their million-dollar compensation claims against the Catholic Church and other religious organizations. Call our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation to discuss how you can seek damages.

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