New Orleans Catholic Church Says Only 25% of Its Employees Accused of Abuse Actually Did It

Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that only a fraction of the 300+ staffers accused of abuse in the archdiocese were determined "credibly accused."

New Orleans Catholic Church Says Only 25% of Its Employees Accused of Abuse Actually Did It
Photo:Gerald Herbert (AP)

Over 300 people employed by the Catholic Church in New Orleans have been alleged to have sexually abused children or “vulnerable” individuals over the last five decades, yet the archdiocese has deemed only 24.8% of them (77 people) to be “credibly accused,” the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

“Secret documents” obtained by the publication reportedly show 310 Catholic priests, deacons and non-clerical workers—both alive and deceased—in the city either appear on a “suspected molester list” or have been named in abuse claims revealed in bankruptcy court.

Back in 2020, the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming the pandemic had created financial difficulties. The filing rendered several sexual abuse claims against over 70 predatory priests unable to move forward in court and stopped settlement negotiations for survivors. At the time, attorneys for those suing the church alleged that the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid litigation and keep church records shrouded in secrecy.

According to the Guardian, the documents—composed by unnamed authors—reveal that the archdiocese has treated only a quarter of the allegations against its own as credible. This, the publication notes, is “well below what research estimates is the norm for sexual abuse claims to be found false or unprovable.” It should be noted that research has shown that a very small percentage of sexual assault reports actually turn out to be “false.”

Even worse, however, the documents allege that the archdiocese has handed over “fewer than two dozen of its accused clerics” to authorities and waited “nearly two decades” to do it, according to the Guardian. The memo reportedly contains evidence that—as of the start of 2022—the archdiocese had referred only 23 allegedly abusive clergymen to the authorities. Some of these referrals have resulted in recent convictions, the authors note.

Additionally, despite not being deemed “credibly accused” by the archdiocese, a number of the hundreds of clergymen and others who’ve been allegedly sexually abused children were found credibly accused by an archdiocese advisory board or were placed on other dioceses’ lists of credibly accused individuals.

The archdiocese didn’t answer specific questions about the documents the Guardian obtained, but Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond said it “would continue to look for ways to strengthen programs” that the Catholic church purports to protect children and all those vulnerable to predation. Aymond, via a written statement to The Times-Picayune, also responded to a previous report by the Guardian that claimed he “disregarded recommendations from board advisers to publicly label certain accused clerics as credibly suspected molesters.”

“Each allegation is complex and unique,” Aymond’s statement read. “A finding of credibility by the Internal Review Board is not a determination of guilt…Investigations are ongoing to allow for the acceptance of new information as we endeavor to determine the truth. New information could be new witnesses with contradictory information, discovery of new evidence making the allegations implausible, and in some instances, recanting all or part of the allegation.”

“The cases cited by The Guardian are instances where information came to light that called into question the facts presented to the Internal Review Board,” the statement continued.

In 2020, it was reported that executives for the city’s NFL team, the Saints, allegedly provided public relations aid to the archdiocese in managing the number of sexual abuse claims made against it by several men.

The New Orleans archdiocese’s bankruptcy is still pending.

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