While the Roman Catholic Church promotes itself as a safe community to enjoy worship and religious education, things are not always what they seem.
- Clergy Members and Child Sexual Abuse
- Clergy Sexual Abuse Remains a Problem
- Sex Abuse From Clergy Members
- The Devastating Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
- Get Help
- The Sexual Abuse Victims
- Louisiana Roman Catholic Diocese
- Sexual Abuse Allegations in Archdiocese of New Orleans
- A Louisiana Clergy Abuse Lawyer Is Ready to Help
Are you a victim of clergy sexual abuse? Have you remained silent over what occurred? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our clergy abuse attorneys serve as legal advocates for child victims of sexual molestation and handle all cases, including abuse that occurred decades ago.
Call our New Orleans clergy 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 abuse lawyer will remain private through an attorney-client relationship.
Clergy Members and Child Sexual Abuse
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.
Not all sexual abuse victims 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, our personal injury attorneys can provide immediate legal assistance to protect their legal rights.
Our law firm will fight on your behalf to protect your rights and provide a safe place to talk about what happened. Our clergy sexual abuse lawyers 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 the consequences.
Clergy Sexual Abuse Remains a Problem
In 2019, the diocese of Lafayette released its list of religious clergy, including deacons and priests that had credible accusations of priest abuse involving vulnerable victims such as minor children.
However, the record was not complete and was missing many of the critical details for parishioners and priest sex abuse 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 religious teachers, coaches, and choir directors who are alleged to have had inappropriate sexual behaviors. A previous list identified clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Sex Abuse From Clergy Members
In 2002, the New Orleans Archdiocese was involved in a major sexual abuse scandal resulting in the resignation of Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes, who was accused of covering up priest abuse allegations against priests in the Archdiocese.
In 2009, another priest abuse scandal erupted in the New Orleans Archdiocese against former New Orleans, LA Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., who was accused of sexually assaulting three young victims.
Clergy members in New Orleans and Louisiana have been accused of priest abuse. In some cases, the clergy members were removed from their positions or laicized (defrocked), but in others, the clergy members were simply transferred to other assignments.
The alleged abuse against a clergy member in the Alexandria diocese in Louisiana has been widely reported. The abuse was said to have taken place in the 1970s and 1980s.
A bankruptcy court in New Orleans has ruled that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans does not have to publicly release the names of dozens of priests accused of sexual abuse.
The Devastating Effects of Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual assault can cause lifelong devastation that negatively alters the victim’s well-being. Victims 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 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 the child’s becoming a victim of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse 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.
According to statistics, one in 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 to victims of child abuse. In addition, the New Orleans Family Justice Center at (504) 592-4005 offers emotional and mental counseling and education on pursuing justice to hold sexual predators and religious institutions accountable.
Department of Children & Family Services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at (855) 452-5437 (855-4 LA-KIDS)
The Sexual Abuse Victims
According to the BishopAccountability.org database, 95 religious clergy members from the Catholic Churches have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct involving underage minors and vulnerable adults. Some of these cases occurred decades ago, and the predators are no longer alive.
In recent years, the Catholic Church and other organizations compiled a list of clergy members and other laypersons facing credible allegations of clergy abuse serving in the Diocese of Alexandria, Diocese of Lafayette, Baton Rouge Diocese, and Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux an Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Many of these child sexual abuse cases involve Catholic churches and schools and religious leaders in positions of power who knew of the clergy abuse in their midst and remained silent.
Numerous clergy abuse victims state that the Catholics and other religious organizations were informed of the sexual abuse and supposedly conducted internal investigations.
However, the sexual exploitation 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 abuse claims of clergy 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.
When the accusations were made, Deacon Shawn Gautreaux was assigned to the Breaux Bridge St. Bernard Church in St. Martin Parish. Church officials notified local law enforcement of the abuse claims.
Father Pat Wattigny
On a St. Tammany Parish warrant in October 2020, Georgia police arrested Reverend Pat Wattigny of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church in Slidell, LA. 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 Louisiana 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 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 inappropriate sexual activities occurred in the church rectory when Wattigny was the Saint Luke Evangelist pastor. In the first few days of October 2020, Archbishop Gregory Aymond removed the Louisiana 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 Wattigny’s alleged inappropriate sexual activity, his sexual abuse victim was older than 13 but younger than 17. If found guilty of the charges, the priest could face between five and 20 years in prison.
Over three decades ago, the now-former Lafayette Diocese Father Gilbert Gauthe admitted to sexually assaulting 37 underage males while working in the ministry for the Catholic Churches. At the time of his arrest, 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 with abusing a three-year-old male child in Texas.
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 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).
Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette
1408 Carmel Dr
Lafayette, LA 70501
Bishop: J. Douglas Deshotel
Roman Catholic Diocese of Shreveport
3500 Fairfield Ave
Shreveport, LA 71104
Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria
4400 Coliseum Blvd
Alexandria, LA 71303
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) 439-7400rBishop: Glen Provost
Cathedral: Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans
7887 Walmsley Ave
New Orleans, LA 70125
Bishop: Gregory Michael Aymond
Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma Thibodaux
Schriever, LA 70395
Bishop: Shelton Fabre
Phone: (985) 868-7720
The Archdiocese of New Orleans released the names of 57 priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse dating back as far as the 1950s.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for bankruptcy in 2005 because of many clergy abuse cases.
The accused priests of Louisiana have been ordered to undergo psychological treatment to address the rampant abuse that has plagued the state’s religious communities.
House Bill 342, passed in Louisiana, was intended to prevent clergy from committing abuse towards their parishioners.
A three-year window period was created by a law passed in 2015 for victims of sexual abuse to file civil suits against perpetrators or institutions. It expired at the end of August 2018.
Sexual Abuse Allegations in Archdiocese of New Orleans
Sexual abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of New Orleans have been made against priests, bishops, and Catholic clergy members. Clergy members have repeatedly abused many survivors in New Orleans.
The first sexual abuse claims in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were made in the early 1980s against Bishop Paul J. Fife, who was accused of sexually exploiting a minor in the early 1960s.
Implicated clergy members in the Louisiana diocese include the former director of the Catholic Center for Moral Renewal, Fr. Timothy Thibodeaux, who allegedly abused a teenage boy in the 1980s
A Clergy member accused of sexually exploiting young boys was arrested in Louisiana in May of 2019.
A grand jury report released in Louisiana in November 1993 stated that Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Lafayette had abused at least 35 young victims since 1956.
A Louisiana Clergy 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 that a clergy member did to you. We know the power of the Roman Catholic Church in their continuing to fight back, saying nothing happened to the child victims of sexual abuse.
However, you will never face them alone as our legal representation team will be on your side. Our law firm can assure you that all those responsible will hear your story when settling your case or presenting evidence at trial.
Our law firm can help you seek medical treatment, provide legal advice to protect your legal rights, 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 child sexual abuse to other victims in the future.
Our Louisiana clergy abuse lawyer will successfully resolve your case, obtain financial compensation, and protect your rights. Contact us now at (888) 424-5757. During an initial, free, confidential consultation concerning your civil claims, all information you share will remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.