Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel was met with applause Tuesday night when he announced that he is considering publishing the names of former priests in the Diocese of Lafayette who have faced credible accusations of child sex abuse.
“If he were to release that, it would be a step in the right direction, it would be a step toward transparency,” said parishioner Graham Beduze.
The bishop made the announcement during the question-and-answer portion of Tuesday night’s forum on the church sex abuse crisis.
“I think it’s a good thing that could bring healing and show the people of the diocese that he’s trying to be transparent,” said Fr. Chester Arceneaux.
In the first portion of the forum, the panel addressed topics like healing in the wake of scandal and the safe environment policy. But the bishop was faced with some difficult questions during the question-and-answer portion of the forum.
According to the diocese, seventy questions were submitted by parishioners ahead of time, and many were on the same topic: the recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania.
Mary Collins stood up during the forum and asked Bishop Deshotel if he would release the list of clergy who have been accused of sexual misconduct.
“Sexual misconduct is different than pedophilia,” said Collins. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress fighting against child abuse, but I still think there are young adults who are being abused.”
Bishop Deshotel was also questioned about the latest case of priest sex abuse. St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputies say Father Michael Guidry confessed to molesting a teenager when he was 16 years old.
“They say the emphasis is no longer on the institution and instead on the victims, but it seems the complete opposite is happening,” said Quinn Hebert who questioned the bishop about the case. “The victim was threatened by the vicar general that their counseling would cease if they were to go through with a lawsuit.”
The teen and his parents (his father is a deacon) filed a lawsuit in August. Read more on that here.
KATC and other media outlets were able to attend Tuesday’s forum in Cathedral Hall, but cameras and recording devices were not allowed inside.
“I really wanted the people who gathered here not be intimidated by cameras,” said Fr. Arceneaux. “We asked some intense questions to the bishop and to the panel of how we begin healing and how we begin transparency.”
Repeated requests for an interview with Bishop Deshotel were declined.
As Bishop Deshotel considers releasing the names of accused priests, he says he needs to consult with a diocesan review board to see what he can release.
“There are many particulars in releasing that list,” said Fr. Arcenaux. “The victims above all are his concern and their families.
In the meantime, the diocese is hoping Tuesday’s forum is the start of a conversation.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” said parishioner Graham Beduze. “If anything came from this, I would hope it encourages more of the lay faithful to hold these meetings in their churches and continue the conversation.”