Update, 10 p.m. Thursday

Lt. John Mowell, public information officer for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office, said in a news release late Thursday night that after talking with Gil Dozier, the attorney working on behalf of Diocese of Lafayette, that the diocese is not aware of any known victims living in Lafayette Parish.

The diocese, Mowell added, notified the Sheriff’s Office "out of an abundance of caution because the reverend who is on administrative leave (Jody Simoneau) worked in this parish."

If any victims come forward as a result of this disclosure, Mowell said, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office stands ready to assist them.

Original post

The Lafayette Diocese on Thursday announced a new allegation involving a priest abusing minors.

Rev. Jody Simoneaux, pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church in Jeanerette, is accused of being “involved in improper behavior with minors” more than 30 years ago, while he was assigned to St. Anthony Church in Eunice and St. Anne Church in Youngsville, according to a news release.

The statement released by the diocese does not describe the improper behavior, nor specify the number of alleged victims or their gender.

Simoneaux is now on administrative leave while the diocese investigates, and the diocese has reported the allegations to law enforcement authorities in St. Landry and Lafayette parishes, according to the news release.

However, a Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman said in a news release Thursday night that they cannot find any recent complaints about Simoneaux.

"Based on my preliminary research, we do not have any recent complaints concerning this individual," Lt. John Mowell said. "Our office will begin researching our archives to see if any can be found."

The allegation is the fifth involving Lafayette Diocese priests that have surfaced or received new attention since June, when Michael Guidry, a former priest at St. Peter Church in St. Landry Parish, confessed to abusing a 16-year-old altar boy three years ago.

The victim claimed in a subsequent lawsuit that Guidry plied him with alcohol on several occasions during overnight visits to Guidry’s house, and that he developed a drinking problem as a result.

“(The victim) was fearful of telling anyone what had happened to him and he began to drink heavily, causing deep concern with his parents and older brother,” the lawsuit alleges. “It got to the point that every time they confronted him about his alcohol problem (the victim) would get mad and leave, all of which caused a breach in the close and loving relationship he and his family had before (Guidry) came into their lives.”

Earlier this month, the diocese disclosed that Monsignor Robie Robichaux had been accused on multiple occasions of abusing a teenage girl. The victim in that case notified church authorities in 1994 and 2004, according to Bishop Douglas Deshotel, who said he first learned of the allegation three weeks before disclosing it.

Deshotel has not addressed questions in the Robichaux case.

In addition to the three newly disclosed allegations, two existing ones involving Lafayette Diocese priests have recently received new attention. A lawsuit last month highlighted allegations against the late Kenneth Morvant, who was pastor of the St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville.

Morvant was accused of repeatedly abusing 11 boys in the 1970s, using “alcohol and God” to seduce them, according to the lawsuit. Those allegations were previously part of Washington, D.C. lawsuit that was tossed for lack of jurisdiction.

A Pennsylvania grand jury report in August included an allegation against John Bostwick, who was transferred to Lafayette in 1992 at the invitation of former Bishop Harry Flynn. Bostwick had refused an order to get counseling for unspecified reasons before being transferred, according to the grand jury report. He was removed in 1996 after an investigation of his alleged abuse of minors in the early 1980s.

Following the lead of other Louisiana dioceses, Deshotel said this month he is committed to releasing a list of all credibly accused priests from his diocese, although he did not specify when that would occur.

The diocese in 2004 disclosed that 123 accusers had received $24.4 million in settlements related to allegations in the 1970s and 1980s. Those accusations were against 15 priests, but the diocese has long resisted calls to identify them.

Follow Ben Myers on Twitter, @blevimyers.