BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In January of 2019, the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge is expected to join more than 70 dioceses and Catholic religious organizations across the country, which have released the names of priests who face credible accusations of sexual abuse involving children, including both the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana. However, noticeably nonexistent lists would contain the names of leaders in the clergy who participated in “covering up” those allegations.
The first list shows a horrifying number of predatory priests operated within the clergy. The second would potentially show direct actions willfully taken by leaders within the Catholic Church contributed to systemic and systematic sexual abuse of juveniles and vulnerable adults within the church.
According to one advocacy organization, it’s important for accountability to find out who knew what, when they knew it, and what they chose to do with that information.
“[Lists] should include every single proven, admitted, or accused church employee: bishops, priests, seminarians, brothers, nuns, and lay people, no matter who supervised or ordained them and no matter where they originated," the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said in a statement.
SNAP previously issued statements requesting church leaders expand the information they release to the public to include the dates when the diocese first learned about the allegations against the priests, what steps were taken at that time, the date in which each priest had their faculties removed, and if they served in any other parishes following the initial allegations. In many documented cases of abuse, priests were moved to different areas or sent away to “treatment” facilities.
“Moving clergy who sexually abuse is a mechanism to hide the abuse from the parishioners and avoid criminal consequences. Sometimes, the moving of clergy is explained as a ‘health issue’ or a ‘family issue’ when in fact it gives an abuser another opportunity to rape and sexually abuse,” said Tim Lennon, president of SNAP.
“Keep in mind the church officials should have released these names a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago,” said Lennon. “They only release these names as they are under duress for the exposure of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury and the investigation of the Illinois Attorney General. The cover up is systematic with all bishops. The cover up extends to the highest levels of the Vatican and it’s ‘princes’ of the church, the cardinals.”
In 2018, Catholic dioceses across the United States began identifying predatory priests following a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania. The investigation, spearheaded by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, identified hundreds of priests who faced allegations dating back decades.
SNAP continues to call for Louisiana’s legal authorities and church leadership to “take action” against priests in the Roman Catholic Church who’ve been credibly accused of sexual abuse of juveniles. That action, according to SNAP, needs to include investigations that are independent of and separate from the church, and make use of subpoena powers and the ability to compel testimony under oath.
By the time this story was published the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge had not returned WAFB’s request for clarification on if such a list had been created, and simply not been made public.