In a move aimed at restoring trust with parishioners amid a clergy abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church worldwide, the Jesuit order on Friday revealed the names of 42 clergy members — mostly priests — suspected of sexually molesting children while they worked in a region that includes Louisiana.
In a move aimed at restoring trust with parishioners amid the clergy abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church, the Jesuit order on …
Three of the former priests on the list released Friday had worked in Grand Coteau and one of those also worked at a Jesuit-run parish in north Baton Rouge. Friday's disclosure also resurrected disclosures about the Manresa Retreat House in Convent in St. James Parish. Its former director, the Rev. Thomas Naughton of the old New Orleans Province of the Jesuits, was stripped of his duties in California in 2002 after accusations he had molested a boy in 1978 in Dallas.
The Jesuits' disclosure Friday listed only where the men had served. It did not say where any of the alleged abuse occurred.
One of the priests who worked at Grand Coteau was Norman J. Rogge, who was twice convicted of sex crimes against minors but continued working for the church, according to previous news accounts and bishopaccountability.org, a website dedicated to tracking abuse by clergy.
Several residents of a Tampa juvenile detention home reported to authorities that Rogge had fondled them during nude swimming lessons at Rogge’s lake cottage, according to a 2002 Dallas Morning News article. He pleaded guilty in 1967 to fondling one of the residents at a movie theater in Florida.
Rogge pleaded no contest in 1985 to masturbating in front of a 14-year-old boy and soliciting oral sex from him. Rogge was accused with two other adults in that incident.
Rogge was sentenced to probation following both convictions.
Rogge was not listed in church directories from 1986 to 1988, but in 1989 he was assigned to St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, where he stayed until 2002, according to bishopaccountability.org. Rogge also served at St. Charles Borromeo Parish during his final four years in Grand Coteau.
The Lafayette Diocese learned of Rogge’s previous convictions from a reporter in 2002 and accused the Jesuits of failing to disclose them, according to the Dallas Morning News. Rogge was then transferred to the Ignatius Residence, a Jesuit retirement home. He died in 2009.
The Jesuit order released a list Friday morning of 42 priests and other members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
According to a church history, St. Charles Borromeo Parish will mark its 200th anniversary next year. Jesuits have served the parish since 1837. The person answering the phone at St. Charles Borromeo on Friday said Fr. Derrick Weingartner is the only person authorized to address questions, and that Weingartner would not be available until next week.
A Lafayette Diocese spokeswoman said the diocese would research The Advocate’s queries about Rogge.
A spokeswoman for the Jesuit provincial headquarters in St. Louis said she could not answer specific questions about Rogge. The spokeswoman, Therese Meyerhoff, said in a written statement that the church acknowledges “terrible instances in which a man’s abuse was known, but he was reassigned.” This practice was “a serious failure,” she said.
“In the past, it was believed that men who had abused minors could be safely returned to ministry after receiving treatment,” Meyerhoff wrote in the statement. “Now, of course, we know better, and that wouldn’t be allowed to happen. The Jesuits have a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual abuse.”
The other two credibly accused priests who worked in Grand Coteau are Jody Blanchard and Austin Park. Their positions and dates of service are not clear. Blanchard was born in 1953 and ordained in 1983, and the list does not include a date of death. He left the ministry in 1994. Attempts to reach Blanchard through publicly listed numbers on Friday were unsuccessful.
Blanchard also worked at Immaculate Conception Parish in Baton Rouge. The pastor there, the Rev. Thomas Clark, said he is not aware of any allegations against Blanchard stemming from that parish, and that he is not familiar with Blanchard at all.
“Nobody seems to remember him,” Clark said.
Park was born in 1918 and died in 2013. The abuse was estimated to have occurred in the 1960s, and he had already left the ministry and suffered from dementia at time allegations surfaced against him, although it’s not clear when that occurred, according to the Jesuits' documents. He served at Christ the King and St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, St. Philip Neri in Kinder and at a location listed as "Oakdale Facility" in Oakdale.
A half-dozen of the named priests, brothers and would-be clergy on the list worked at a Jesuit High School in the city where their alleged abuses took place.
Two of those six — Edward DeRussy and Francis Landwermeyer — had not been previously identified, either in media reports or in a similar list of suspected clergy abusers released last month by the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
A seventh man on the list — Ben Wren — was previously identified as an alleged abuser, accused of sexual misconduct from his days working at Loyola University New Orleans.
Many others landed on the Jesuit list based on allegations of abuse that took place elsewhere. For a handful of named Jesuits, the date ranges for their alleged abuses overlap with their assignments in New Orleans, but it was not clear where they happened.
Jesuit officials declined a request to specify where some alleged incidents occurred, citing a desire “to protect the confidentiality and privacy of the victims.”
That explanation rang hollow to Terry McKiernan of bishopaccountability.org. He found it problematic that Friday’s release lacked any clear indication of where the alleged abuses took place, and exactly when.
“Not providing (that) is not transparency,” McKiernan said. “Especially with the ‘new’ priests whose allegations have not been known until now, it’s really important we know details about the allegations. Because there’s nothing on the record at the moment about those cases.”
Richard Windmann received a $450,000 financial settlement from the order after accusing Cornelius Carr, who is named on Friday’s list, of abusing him in his adolescence in the 1970s. Windmann said Friday that he believes officials sometimes hide behind the concept of victims’ privacy. He said his settlement agreement included a confidentiality clause that supposedly came at his request, though he never asked for it.
“Only they stood to benefit from any confidentiality clause,” said Windmann, who recently opened up to the media about how Carr happened upon Jesuit High maintenance man Peter Modica raping Windmann. Carr’s response, he said, was to masturbate.
Compiled by the Jesuits’ U.S. Central and Southern province, Friday’s list followed a similar one published Nov. 2 by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, naming 57 Catholic priests and deacons who either were removed from ministry based on allegations they molested children during the last several decades, or died first. Other dioceses in Louisiana have announced plans to release similar lists.
Like Aymond’s list, the Jesuit roster of abusers is meant as a step to assuage Catholics appalled by the latest flare-ups of an abuse scandal that first boiled over in Boston in 2002. That scandal hit another fever pitch this year after a Pennsylvania grand jury published a report exposing previously unreported allegations of abuse by hundreds of priests.
“Words cannot possibly suffice to express our sorrow and shame for what occurred,” said a statement from the Rev. Ronald Mercier, the head of the Central and Southern Province. While alluding to anti-abuse safeguards adopted since 2002, Mercier’s statement invited victims to contact the order, saying, “Caring for these survivors — and preventing any such future events — must be our focus as we move forward.”
Of the two new names linked to abuse at Jesuit High, DeRussy spent more time there. The priest taught English and Latin from 1969 to 1978, the school said in a statement. He faced multiple abuse claims and was “restricted from ministry with minors” in 1991, according to his order.
The other was Francis Landwermeyer, who taught Latin and English at Jesuit from 1961 to 1962 while he studied to become a priest, the school said. Like several others with ties to New Orleans, he also worked at Loyola. His order said he was removed from ministry in 2010 and was the subject of multiple abuse claims.
Two others tied to Jesuit High on Friday’s list — Carr and former school president Donald Pearce — were among six Jesuit priests on Aymond’s release.
Yet Aymond’s clergy-only release omitted two Jesuit employees from the 1970s appearing on the order’s list Friday: Claude Ory, a religious brother, and Donald Dickerson, who taught English and theology while studying to become a priest. Lawsuits alleging sexual abuse targeted both of those men and resulted in out-of-court settlements for the accusers, which media had previously reported.
As he’s done before, the Rev. Christopher Fronk — who became Jesuit’s president in early 2017 — said in a statement Friday that Jesuit High has adopted measures making the school safer in the decades since the abuse cases cited by the new list.
The rest of his statement echoed Mercier’s, saying, “We move forward as a community by acknowledging these acts of abuse from over 35 years ago and doing everything we can to make sure they never happen again.”
Ory, 80, is the only religious brother of three still-living men on Friday’s list of those with ties to the area. The order said he resides “under supervision” at a Jesuit home in Baltimore.
Another one of the living is Bernard Knoth, who resigned his presidency at Loyola University New Orleans in 2003 over an abuse allegation stemming from a prior assignment in Indianapolis in the 1980s.
Loyola’s current president, Tania Tetlow, is now two administrations removed from Knoth’s leadership and said in a statement, “Our hearts break for every person whose life has been impacted by abuse of any kind, no matter how long ago.”
The Manresa retreat center at Convent, a popular Jesuit institution, was run by Naughton for most of the 1980s. Naughton was removed from active ministry in 2002 while stationed at Mission Viejo, California, following accusations that he molested a boy in 1978 when he was president of a Jesuit school in Dallas. He left the Jesuits in 2009 and died in 2012.
Founded in 1540 by a Spanish warrior who ultimately became known as St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit order is known for its commitments to education and social justice. Its 16,000 members make it the Catholic Church’s largest male religious order. Francis in 2013 was elected as the Roman Catholic Church's first Jesuit pope.
Aside from Jesuit High, Loyola and Manresa, the Jesuits’ presence in Louisiana these days largely revolves around a spirituality center in Grand Coteau and churches named Immaculate Conception in downtown New Orleans and north Baton Rouge.