The fourth Catholic diocese in Louisiana to release names of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors was the least open among them in disclosing the work histories of those clerics, but perhaps the most forthcoming about the abuse allegations themselves.
The Diocese of Alexandria this week named 27 clergy members that it deemed credibly accused of sexual abuse, bringing the state's total count of clerics outed in such announcements to 135. The revelations from the Diocese of Alexandria also include priests who served in the Shreveport area, which became a separate diocese in 1986. The Diocese of Shreveport said that it has received no credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor since its creation.
Diocesan officials in Alexandria said their decision to exclude any information about the parishes where the former clerics served was meant to protect the flocks who worship in those parishes.
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.
"Communities are not to be re-traumatized about a sad portion of their history, placing an unwanted spotlight on the community of faith today in 2019," said Joan Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Alexandria, when asked Thursday about the exclusion of parish assignments. She also said the Diocese excluded the work histories because they did not want to "re-victimize any victims."
And Ferguson said that past abuse allegations at Alexandria churches "affected the spirit of the community negatively."
Advocates for survivors of clergy sex abuse reacted with incredulity to the diocese's decision, and the explanation for it.
David Clohessy, the longtime former national director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said Thursday that he was shocked. In decades, he said, he has never heard a diocese claim such a reason for refusing to release the work histories of abusive priests.
“The notion that possible embarrassment to unaffected parishioners somehow trumps the safety of kids, and the suffering of deeply wounded victims, is staggeringly insensitive," Clohessy said.
He said survivors of clergy sexual abuse are mostly concerned about ensuring that their abusers do not hurt anyone else. And therefore, he said, it doesn't help to keep potentially affected parishioners in the dark about where an abusive priest worked.
SNAP has called for Roman Catholic dioceses to release as much information as possible about rogue priests, including the dates when they worked at specific church parishes. And Clohessy said naming the church parishes where abusive clerics have worked can actually help victims — some of whom remember the church where they were abused, but not name of the priest who abused them.
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In other cases, someone might see that a priest at their parish was accused of abuse, and that could prompt them to talk about it openly with a loved one who was victimized, he said.
In releases over the last two months, the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Archdiocese of New Orleans and Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux each included the names of church parishes where accused clerics worked. None included the specific dates in which clerics worked each assignment, but the Diocese of Baton Rouge noted the church parish where the abuse was alleged, along with the time frame of the abuse and the date it was reported for each of the 37 clerics on its list.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans included time frames but not the specific parish assignments where abuse occurred for the 57 clerics on its list, while the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux did not include dates of abuse or where the abuse was alleged for the 14 clerics officials named.
And the Diocese of Shreveport — though it used the list from Diocese of Alexandria — modified the list to include the parish assignments for the priests who served in Shreveport.
The list of abusive clergymen the Diocese of Baton Rouge produced last week did not include a Marist priest who was the pastor of St. Joseph C…
Alexandria Bishop David Talley wrote in a letter along with the release of the 27 names that the Diocese of Alexandria reviewed 535 clergy files dating to 1853, when the Diocese was founded in Natchitoches.
"This evil can only be purged through a vigilant process that is transparent to the public," Talley wrote. "Our response must demonstrate the highest levels of honesty and scrutiny."
In some ways, the Diocese of Alexandria surpassed the other dioceses in its level of disclosure. Talley's review included details about the age and gender of victims whom priests were alleged to have preyed on, and whether allegations of abuse were heard by diocesan review boards. Diocesan officials also revealed that they had paid out settlements to certain abuse survivors, though they did not disclose the amounts.
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“If the bishops of Louisiana were seriously concerned about the welfare of children, they need to disclose everything so that we can learn from it," said Patrick J. Wall, a former Benedictine monk and priest who now works for Jeff Anderson and Associates, known nationally for its clergy abuse lawsuits.
There are seven dioceses in the state. The only two that have yet to make public a list of credibly accused priests are the dioceses of Lafayette and Lake Charles. The Diocese of Lafayette is the state's second-largest, in terms of the number of Catholics it serves, behind only the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
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In alphabetical order, the clergy — including deacons and priests from religious orders — on the Diocese of Alexandria list include:
Edward Terry Allen
John Wesley Andries
William Cody Bressler
Francis O. Couvillion
Francis Patrick Donohoe
Moise Richard Gremillion
Michael G. Hannon
Raymond M. Jones (deacon)
H. Clinton Teacle
Leo Van Hoorn
Antonio Valez- Lopez