This weekend, catholics across Acadiana will hear a message from Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel about the sexual abuse of children in the church.
“I join with all of you in the mixed emotions of sadness and anger,” wrote Deshotel referring to the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, in which more than 300 priests were accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children.
“Although it spans a period since 1947, even one case of harming a child by abuse is a crime and a sin,” wrote Deshotel. “Also sad is the poor response and ignorance of the harm done to victims by those in authority.”
The Diocese of Lafayette has paid at least $26-million to 123 victims of sexual abuse by priests. In 2004, then-Bishop Michael Jarrell acknowledged a list of at least 15 priests who faced “credible accusations,” but only one priest was criminally charged. The names of the other priests were never released.
Despite repeated requests, the diocese has refused to release the list. But in light of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, could the Diocese of Lafayette be forced to release those names?
“Their report was more for disclosure,” said 15th Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes. “I’m not clear that the district attorney has the power to command a revelation of this information unless it is to concern a current case.”
Bishop Deshotel’s letter doesn’t address whether he’ll follow the lead of other dioceses across the country and release the names of abusive priests. In his letter, Deshotel promises to be vigilant and guard those placed in his care. He also highlights a perfect score in an audit checking compliance in the Safe Environment Program for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Still, new allegations of abuse continue. In June, a St. Landry parish priest, Father Michael Guidry, was arrested for molestation of a juvenile. Deputies say Guidry confessed to giving the teen alcohol before the abuse. Guidry is on paid leave and the diocese is paying his legal defense. Guidry has yet to be formally charged.