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The List: Accusations of Abuse in The Diocese of Lafayette (Part 1)

Posted: 6:00 PM, Apr 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-24 14:03:59-04

Fifteen years after acknowledging it exists, and months after promising its release, the Diocese of Lafayette still has not released a list of priests who have faced credible accusations of sexual abuse involving children. KATC Investigates is breaking that silence, and releasing its own list.

Lists from other dioceses in Louisiana:

Archdiocese of New Orleans (released names of 57 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse in November of 2018)

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux (released names of 14 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse in January of 2019)

Diocese of Shreveport  (released a statement saying they had no credible accusations since they split from Alexandria in 1986)

Diocese of Baton Rouge (released names of 37 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse on January 31, 2019)

Diocese of Alexandria  (released names of 27 clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse on February 9, 2019)

Diocese of Lake Charles  (released names of 12 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse on April 11, 2019)

Diocese of Lafayette (released names of 33 priests and four deacons on April 12, 2019)

Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province  (released names of three clergy in Acadiana on Dec. 7, 2018)

In early January, the Diocese in Lafayette said they were still examining the past 50 years of files and will release their list when they’re finished. Following the release of names from Baton Rouge, the Diocese of Lafayette released a similar statement saying they were still looking at files. 

The “list” was first acknowledged by the Diocese of Lafayette in February 2004 by former Bishop Michael Jarrell; our reporters have been requesting the diocese disclose those names since then.  They refused until last fall, when Bishop Douglas Deshotel joined other dioceses in the state in making the pledge to release them.

KATC believes the public has waited long enough, and has a right to know, so we are releasing the list of priests with credible accusations we’ve assembled following years of pouring over public records and media reports, using all the investigative techniques we know.  We published our list in January of 2019.

KATC Investigates started by putting together a list of priests and church employees who have been accused of sexual abuse. Our producers and reporters then scoured thousands of pages of documents – all public records – to find support for these accusations in the form of criminal charges, civil suit settlements, diocese statements and court case evidence. Some of those records are recent, some decades old. 

The number of people on KATC’s list will differ from the number of people on the Diocese of Lafayette’s list, because of differing criteria. For instance, the diocese list does not include people identified by the Jesuits as having credible accusations, even though some were serving as priests at churches in the diocese. KATC also included people who were identified by other dioceses as having credible accusations, if they also served in Lafayette Diocese churches.  We are continuing to add to our list as more dioceses publish their own findings.

While we have continually run up against roadblocks – some cases remain sealed, some have been destroyed – we still found more than twice the number of credibly accused priests that Bishop Jarrell acknowledged in 2004.

The second and third part of our series asks if the Diocese has kept its promise and whether they are as transparent and open as they say they have been.

A KATC Special report , a 30-minute documentary entitled The List aired on KATC. All stories from our work on The List can be viewed at KATC.com/thelist

The List

Those who made our list had to have served in the Diocese of Lafayette and had to meet one of the following criteria:

* The diocese settled a lawsuit filed against them that included an accusation of abuse.

* A religious group announced there was a credible accusation against them.

* They were arrested or law enforcement publicly announced that they were under investigation.

* They have pending criminal cases or civil suits filed against them.

DISCLAIMER: Although the men included on this list have had a credible allegation made against them, this list should not imply the allegations are true or that the individual has been found guilty or is liable for civil claims.  

(27) Priests named by any diocese or religious group as having a credible accusation of sexual abuse by a minor or vulnerable adult:

Joseph Alexander  (Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Stanley Begnaud  (Acadia, Calcasieu, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Mary, Vermilion Parishes)

Michael Benedict (Acadia, Allen, Calcasieu, Iberia, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes)

Jody Blanchard  (St. Landry Parish)

John Bostwick  (St. Mary Parish)

Pierre Celestin Cambiaire  (St. Landry Parish)

Richard Chachere (Calcasieu, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes)

David Anderson Coupar  (Iberia, St. Landry and Vermilion Parishes)

Herbert de Launay (Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Mary and Vermilion Parishes)

John de Leeuw (Cameron, Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes)

Michael DesJardins (Acadia, Lafayette and St. Landry Parishes)

Wilfrid DesRosiers  (Acadia, St. Landry Parishes)

George David Gensler  (East Baton Rouge Parish)

Lloyd Hebert  (Calcasieu, Iberia, St. Landry, Vermilion Parishes)

Michael Herpin (Calcasieu, Iberia, Jennings, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Pius Lawe  (St. Landry Parish)

Austin Park (St. Landry Parish)

Joseph Pellettieri  (Acadia Parish)

Keith Anthony Potier (Calcasieu, Iberia and Vermilion Parishes)

Donald Pousson  (Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Mary Parishes)

Richard Rieboldt (Acadia, Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes)

Robie Robichaux  (Acadia, Iberia, Lafayette Parishes)

Charles Soileau  (Acadia, Allen, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jeff Davis, St. Landry and Vermilion Parishes)

Jean Toussaint (Evangeline and St. Landry Parishes)

Adrian Walter Van Hal (Calcasieu, Iberia, Lafayette and St. Landry Parishes)

Cornelius Van Merrianboer (Acadia, Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes)

Rosaire Veilleux (Acadia, Calcasieu and Lafayette Parishes)

(9) Priests that were arrested, convicted, or law enforcement publicly announced that they were under investigation:

Jules Arceneaux (Acadia, St. Landry Parishes)

Felix David Broussard  (Acadia, Evangeline, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vermilion Parishes)

Ronald Lane Fontenot  (Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Mary Parishes)

Gilbert Gauthe  (Iberia, Lafayette, Vermilion Parishes)

Michael Guidry  (Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Mary Parishes)

Mark Richard  (Acadia Parish)

Norman Rogge  (St. Landry Parish)

Jody Simoneaux (Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Gerard Smit  (Acadia, Calcasieu, Jeff Davis, St. Landry Parishes)

(1) Priests with pending civil or criminal charges:

Kenneth Morvant  (Acadia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin Parishes)

(12) The diocese settled a lawsuit filed against them that included an accusation of abuse:

Susai Arul   (Evangeline, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

J.M. Bourgeois  (Evangeline Parish)

Lester Breaux (Lafayette Parish)

George Curtis  (Iberia Parish)

John Anthony Mary Engbers  (Acadia, Calcasieu, Jeff Davis, St. Landry, St. Mary Parishes)

Aldeo Gilbert  (Acadia, Evangeline, Lafayette Parishes)

Marshall Larriviere  (Lafayette, Vermilion Parishes)

Robert Limoges (Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Steven Parks  (St. Landry Parish)

David Primeaux  (Lafayette Parish)

Valerie Pullman  (Jeff Davis, Lafayette Parishes)

Harry Quick  (Calcasieu, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Supplemental List:  

(3) Priests with the Lafayette diocese who had credible accusations filed by an adult victim 

Paul Metrejean  (Acadia, Calcasieu, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vermilion Parishes) 

Grady J. Estilette (Lafayette, Vermilion Parishes)

Charles Zaunbrecher   (Acadia, Lafayette Parishes)

(3) Priest with credible accusations with ties to the Lafayette diocese

John Andries  (Vermilion Parish)

Mark A. Broussard  (Calcasieu, Cameron, Lafayette, St. Landry Parishes)

Samuel Martinez  (Lafayette Parish)

(3) People who meet one of the above criteria and were affiliated with the diocese, but weren’t members of the clergy

Willis Broussard  (Acadia Parish)

Leonard J. Freyou  (Iberia Parish)

Louis Hanemann (Lafayette Parish)

Maura Dwight Hebert  (St. Landry Parish)

Carlos Streva (St. Mary Parish)

Historical Background

The sexual abuse of children by priests in the United States didn’t start with Gilbert Gauthe , but the public discussion and acknowledgement of it did – making the Diocese of Lafayette ground zero for a 30-year crisis.

Gauthe was ordained in 1971 and later testified that he began molesting children immediately. Within a year of his first assignment, complaints were made to the Lafayette diocese.  What followed was, in many ways, a case study for the Church’s failure to properly handle child sex abuse by priests. Every time complaints were made, Gauthe was sent to counseling, and then to a different parish – without any warning to the families there. This went on for 10 years, and ended with lawsuits that cost the church millions and a 10-year prison sentence for Gauthe. He once estimated that he molested hundreds of children.  

Within two years of Gauthe’s conviction the abuse of children by Catholic clergy was perceived to be a crisis nationwide, and in 1986 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met to adopt a response plan. That plan offered general advice only, and is largely considered to be a failure.  

In 2002, the Conference met again on the issue and this time adopted a charter document that states no one known to have sexually abused a child will work in the church. They apologized to everyone who was harmed by priests and by the church’s “tragically slow response.”

However, the bishops refuse to state that all credibly accused priests will be defrocked, a disappointment to victims’ groups. In 2011, that charter was revised to add concrete rules and requirements for individual dioceses aimed at ensuring complaints were handled quickly, ethically and transparently.

The Diocese of Lafayette has committed to release the names of the clergy who have credible accusations of sex abuse against them.  Bishop Douglas Deshotel made the announcement with four other bishops in October of 2018.

“Disclosure of that list is a good idea to foster healing and provide assurance that no one accused of abuse is currently serving in the ministry,” Deshotel said. “Because of the extent and complexity of the research, the process will take time and it’s impossible to predict precisely when that process will be completed.”

It should be noted that Deshotel’s promise to release the list came more than 14 years after former Bishop MIchael Jarrell acknowledged that the list existed.

Following the release of names from the Houma-Thibodaux diocese, Bishop Deshotel issued the following statement:

“Our Diocese, along with others across the state, is currently engaged in extensive
and complex research to compile an accurate list of priests credibly accused of
abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult and removed from ministry. We intend to
release that list as soon as the process of examining 50 years of clergy files very
closely and carefully is completed.”

How to get help

KATC recognizes that hearing these stories will trigger memories and anguish for victims.

If you’ve been the victim of a sexual assault and you need help, there is help available.

We’ve put together a list of locations to find help, and numbers to call for help. You can find it here .

If you believe that a crime has been committed, please call your local law enforcement, or dial 911.

Contact the investigative team:

Jim Hummel  –  Jhummel@katctv.com

Wynce Nolley  –  Wnolley@katctv.com

Angie Simoneaux  –  Asimoneaux@katctv.com

Letitia Walker – Lwalker@katctv.com