The bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge said releasing a list of clergy who have faced credible allegations of sexual abuse against minors or vulnerable adults is "not the end but an attempt to open the door on child sexual abuse that none of us want to open."

Bishop Michael G. Duca's comments came in a press conference held Thursday at noon where he announced the release of a list of 37 clergy, including one bishop and one seminarian, who were identified during a review of the diocese's 1,033 clergy files.

An allegation of sexual abuse is considered credible when the bishop believes that, after a careful investigation and upon the recommendation of the Diocesan Independent Review Board, an incident of sexual abuse occurred, or probably occurred, with the possibility that it did not occur being highly unlikely. Duca said he shared the list and information concerning the abuse with local law enforcement for review.

See the full list of clergy here.

"This list is not the final piece of 'dealing with this' but rather I see it as a beginning step in a foundational change in our Church’s way of acting that will renew all the programs we have in place to protect our children with a focus on the healing of the victims of abuse rather than the protection of the status quo," Duca said.

During the press conference, Duca responded to a comment from a man who identified as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, who said the diocese had hidden the abuse for decades.

"It’s hard for me to answer for the past, but I can tell you there was a culture that was always trying to protect and somehow never allowed the voices of the victims to come forward," Duca said.

"They were scared to even reach out to everyone, lest they have to pay lots of money, to be real honest. It was a closing down of things," Duca said.

Duca said that in preparing the list, he heard from people who wanted to "move beyond the crisis mode and get back to normal."

"But I have come to see quite clearly that in this thinking there is already a return to an old standard to once again 'sweep it under the carpet,'" he said.


Can't see video below? Click here.


Duca said he hopes the list will be a "concrete sign that we do want to talk about this."

He said that he hopes the list will be an "important step" in helping victims of sexual abuse who previously felt "betrayed and unsupported by the church" and that it might encourage them to tell trusted friends, family, counselors and even the bishop and "no longer bear the pain alone." 

"My prayer is that this list will be a sign of a new level of transparency and openness in the way we respond to allegations of abuse and care for victims," he said.

He said the list is a dynamic document and will be added to if new allegations are made against clergy members in the diocese. Duca said the diocese will find a way to communicate those additions publicly.

Duca announced two recent allegations against people working in area parishes, which will be read on Sunday at their respective churches. Parishioners will be asked to contact the diocese's victim assistance coordinator if they were victims of such abuse or know of it.

In St. Aloysius Parish, the diocese recently received credible allegations of sexual abuse against altar boys by Everett Gauthier Sr., a volunteer worker there in the mid-1960s, Duca said.

In St. Thomas More Parish, the diocese is investigating an allegation of sexual abuse dating to the mid-1970s, but the victim is uncertain of the identify of the perpetrator, Duca said.

During the news conference, Duca encouraged victims of clergy sexual abuse to continue coming forward to the diocese's victim assistance coordinator.

"Right now I can honestly say, I am not aware of any hint or possibility that this is going on in our Diocese right now. No one has come to me with any kind of recent complaints. But part of our program in the best sense of the word is this has got to be, the church has got to have our eyes open all the time," Duca said.

To report clergy sexual abuse, people can contact Amy Cordon, victim assistance coordinator, on the Diocesan 24-hour hotline 225-242-0250.

Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.