No longer under a gag order amid their lawsuit against the Diocese of Lafayette, a St. Landry Parish family is now able to address new concerns that were revealed in their case against convicted priest Michael Guidry.
In a deposition conducted earlier this year, Guidry testified that shortly after he molested Oliver Peyton in 2015, he confided in a support group of fellow priests outside the seal of confession.
“They are all supposed to be safe environment certified,” said Oliver’s mother Letitia Peyton. “They are mandated reporters for this type of behavior. They had knowledge of what happened and decided to keep each other's ‘mistakes,’ as they called them, secret-- that’s very alarming.”
KATC reached out to the Diocese of Lafayette for comment on the claim made by Guidry in his deposition, but we never heard back. Guidry was removed from ministry in 2018, three years after the abuse, when Oliver reported it to his family.
The Peyton family is calling for the church to investigate.
“I'm very alarmed that there are five or six priests in this diocese, who are still actively in ministry, who knew what happened to our child and did nothing to let us know, or authorities know,” said Oliver’s father Scott Peyton.
Shortly after Guidry’s deposition, the Peytons say they were offered a settlement by the diocese, which they accepted. As part of that settlement, the diocese released a public apology and affirmation of Oliver’s account of what happened.
After careful examination, the Diocese of Lafayette has determined that the allegations made by Oliver Peyton against Michael Guidry, who formerly served as a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, are credible. The Diocese further denounces the actions of Michael Guidry towards Oliver Peyton and hereby formally and publicly apologizes to Oliver Peyton and to his family. Michael Guidry has been permanently removed from ministry.
“There were two betrayals, one by the priest and one by the community,” said Scott Peyton.
Scott Peyton is a deacon in the Diocese of Lafayette and served alongside Father Guidry at St. Peter’s Church in Morrow. He says the statement from the diocese was so important for his son and the family because some in the community questioned the validity of Oliver’s accusation from the beginning.
“In that initial press conference [the bishop] mentioned that Guidry's good name would be restored if the allegations were proved to not be credible,” said Scott. “We found that Guidry used that, and [supporters] rallied behind him based on that initial statement. That was hurtful to our son, because people believed [Guidry].”
In his deposition, Guidry revealed he still receives letters and visits in prison (pre-COVID) from supporters, including priests in active ministry. He said he doesn’t set the record straight if some of them believe the allegations against him are false.
For the deposition, Guidry was questioned by Kristi Schubert, an attorney representing the Peyton family. In a statement to KATC, she said Guidry’s testimony brought to light larger issues within the Diocese of Lafayette.
The Diocese of Lafayette claims that they follow the Dallas Charter policies through their “Safe Environments” program. Yet when asked whether these policies had any effect on his day to day activities as a priest, Father Guidry said that nothing has changed since the Dallas Charter. He said that these policies had no meaningful impact on how he was overseen by the Diocese. That is striking and disturbing. It suggests that the “Safe Environment” policies may not be having the impact the Church wants us to believe they are.
With the criminal and civil cases now over the Peytons say there is closure, but also work to be done. Letitia Peyton has testified during the legislative session in support of HB 492, a bill that would give survivors more time to pursue damages if they were sexually abused as children. Current law gives survivors until their 28th birthday to file suit; proposed law would give them until their 53rd birthday.
The legislation is opposed by lobbyists representing the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“It's not retroactive, it’s from the date the law changes,” said Letitia Peyton. “So if they’ve cleaned everything up- then there should be very few victims and few people who would be able to use this law. But it concerns me that they’re opposing this so boldly because if you haven't cleaned up your mess then yeah, you’re going to be out there wanting to oppose it.”
The Peytons say looking back on their experiences over the past few years, they feel the church continues to put the institution first. They say it’s time for a change.
“We need a good bishop to stand up and say enough is enough. We need someone to do something now,” said Letitia Peyton. “There definitely needs to be a change in leadership.”
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