Before Clarence Biggers came to the Diocese of Baton Rouge in 1964, multiple girls told their parents that the Marist priest had kissed them, fondled them and exposed himself to them at St. Joseph Catholic School in Marietta, Georgia.
One of their mothers typed up a letter to Marist officials about his abuse. But instead of removing him from ministry, the Marist order transferred the priest to the Diocese of Baton Rouge, where he worked at St. Joseph Church in the tiny town of Paulina in St. James Parish on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
Bishop Michael Duca on Thursday released the names of 37 Roman Catholic clergymen credibly accused of sexually abusing minors — the first majo…
The Diocese of Baton Rouge named 37 clergymen this week who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, and Biggers was among them. While some of those on the list had previously been targeted by lawsuits and featured in media accounts, 19 of them had never had their misconduct exposed.
Biggers was one of those.
The Diocese reported that Biggers continued to abuse children after he got to Paulina, saying that they received multiple reports in 2000 of abuse that occurred between 1964 and 1967. Dan Borne, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Diocese, said Friday that they had no records indicating that Biggers sexually abused a minor before he came to Baton Rouge. The Marist order transferred Biggers back to Atlanta in 1967, where he worked at another church parish before he joined a monastery and died in 2009.
It’s unclear whether he continued to abuse children upon his return to Atlanta. He was apparently never removed from ministry and retained his title as a priest, though he spent his final years in a monastery.
A man once described as a "crusading priest-cop coming to the Cajuns' rescue" now stands accused of sexual abuse from his time as a priest 40 …
In 2003, the Marist order apologized and reached a settlement with 10 women who alleged abuse from Biggers, and the group held an informal ceremony in which the order gave $25,000 checks to each of the women. The Rev. Dennis Steik, who was the head of the order’s Atlanta province, also presented the women with gold crosses and statues of Jesus, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Another former priest whose name was first publicized Thursday was Nicholas Martrain. Diocesan officials said he was credibly accused in 2002, when an adult alleged abuse from Martrain two decades beforehand at Ascension of Our Lord Church in Donaldsonville.
But Mary Olive Pierson, an attorney representing Martrain, said late Friday that his case was unlike the others that the Diocese reported.
"The important thing here is that I didn’t like for Nicholas Martrain to be mixed up in this gigantic disclosure when the allegations about him occurred in 1967, they weren’t reported until 2002, and he wasn’t informed until last Sunday that his name would be in here," Pierson said. "These allegations, by the way, don’t have anything to do with males. It has to do with one female.”
Nancy Jeansonne, a longtime Catholic in Baton Rouge who held leadership positions in Catholic fundraising and schools, said Friday she was still shocked by the Martrain revelation.
Jeansonne, 62, attended St. Isidore the Farmer Church and school in Baton Rouge growing up and had fond memories of both Martrain and his predecessor in the early 1960s, John Weber. Weber was also credibly accused of abuse in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, church officials said.
Jeansonne described Martrain as gentle-natured and Weber as jolly and personable. She said the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis has led to a downturn in her church participation, as she used to attend mass every Sunday but now only goes a few times a year.
As Baton Rouge Bishop Michael Duca released the names Thursday of 37 clergy members who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse, a man who s…
“Quite frankly, I kind of don’t feel the same when I go to church now because of all of this,” she said.
Weber died in 2000. Martrain left ministry in 1982 and got married the next year. Baton Rouge Bishop Michael Duca said when he released the list that the diocese had contacted the former priests who are still alive to tell them that they would be included on it.
The Baton Rouge list also included estimated time frames of when abuse happened. The data suggest that the problems with abusive priests were especially acute in the 1970s. Two deacons ordained in that decade, David Chaloux and Salvadore “Butch” Moran, were exposed for the first time this week as abusers.
Chaloux and Moran prostrated themselves side by side in 1971 at St. Joseph’s Cathedral when they became deacons, Advocate archives show. A story published at the time said Chaloux had two sisters in a convent, had worked at a camp in Maryland for developmentally disabled children and also taught at a special education school in New Orleans. Moran was described as a Baton Rouge High School graduate who had attended LSU for two years.
The Diocese of Baton Rouge revealed Thursday that Roman Catholic priests and a seminarian have been accused of sexually abusing minors or vuln…
The diocese received the first reports of Moran’s abuse in 1994, and again in 2004. He was removed from ministry in 1994, and said late Friday that he had gotten treatment and turned around his life. In Chaloux’s case, the Diocese received its first credible allegation of abuse just five months ago, more than 30 years after Chaloux left the priesthood. He was laicized in 1986 and died in 1990.
Still, the allegation about Chaloux was not the most recent one received by the diocese.
One person told the diocese just seven weeks ago that Claretian priest David Clark abused them between 1964 and 1965 at St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge. Clark had been accused of abuse elsewhere before his death, but Thursday marked the first time he was publicly accused of abuse in Baton Rouge.
In the earlier case, two brothers filed a lawsuit in 2003 in which they alleged that Clark sexually abused them in Arizona in 1959 and 1960 — before he came to Baton Rouge. The Diocese of Gallup, which encompasses parts of both Arizona and New Mexico, has also included Clark on a list of credibly accused clergy.
Some priests on the Baton Rouge list had been named as abusers by other dioceses, but their connection to abuse in Baton Rouge was established for the first time this week. Dominican priest Daniel Patrick Brady, for example, was included on a list of credibly accused clergy released late last year by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. But at the time, Brady was only listed as having served at St. Anthony of Padua in New Orleans.
It was the third clergy sex-abuse list to be released by a Catholic bishop in Louisiana. And it was by far the most transparent.
Brady’s name resurfaced this week on the list from the Diocese of Baton Rouge, which also said he was accused of abuse between 1961 and 1963 at Holy Ghost in Hammond. Brady left Baton Rouge in 1964, and the diocese received the allegation of his abuse in 1994.
Attorney Richard Ducote said Friday that he represented two victims of Brady’s abuse. One of them died by suicide, and Ducote specifically remembered that one eulogist recalled at the funeral that the young man was not “all bad” even though he gave everyone “a lot of trouble.” Ducote said he stood up and told the church congregation that Brady had molested the young man, which ultimately contributed to his decision to take his own life.
“The congregation gave me a standing ovation,” Ducote said. “It was like the roof opening up and the sun coming in.”
Advocate researcher Judy Jumonville and Staff Writer Katie Gagliano contributed to this report.