A teenager who has reported abuse by St. Landry Parish priest Michael Guidry has filed suit against the priest and the Diocese of Lafayette.
The teenager and his parents — his father is a Diocese of Lafayette deacon — claim in the St. Landry Parish lawsuit that Guidry’s molestation of the teen has fueled the teenager’s alcohol abuse and put a strain on the family’s relationship. And although the Diocese has paid for the teen’s and family’s counseling since the allegations surfaced, the family claims a “high Diocesan official,” who’s also a priest, threatened to halt that treatment should the family sue.
A letter obtained by KATC from the victim’s attorney, Tony Fontana, suggests a luncheon was held for Guidry at the rectory after the allegation surfaced.
In the letter, Monsignor W. Curtis Mallet wrote to the victim “…I should have given greater respect to the matter of the luncheon, which has been the cause of so much grief, had a horrible symbolic impact and is a source of division.”
Mallet continued, “I now realize that the luncheon, which happened at the time Father Guidry moved his belongings, represents to you a terrible disrespect and insensitivity to the trauma inflicted upon you in the very place where people shared a meal together.”
“These are Catholics working in the church,” said Fontana of the victim and his family. “They feel like the church has abandoned them.”
Guidry, 75, served as priest of St. Peter Church in Morrow. The Diocese has placed him on leave and will pay for his criminal defense, Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel has said.
According to the lawsuit, Guidry developed a close relationship with the deacon’s son, starting at age 11, paying him “well” to do household chores.
When the boy reached high-school age, Guidry began to give him alcohol and “started hugging [him], rubbing his stomach and keeping his hand on [his] back.” And one night, when the teen joined Guidry at his home to watch movies, he passed out from drinking “pure gin” and woke to find Guidry had removed the teen’s pants and was molesting him, the lawsuit claims.
The next day, the teen returned to Guidry’s home to retrieve his movie equipment and confronted Guidry about the sexual molestation. Guidry “assured him it would never happen again,” according to the suit, which claims Guidry continued to call and text the teen to have lunch with him.
The teen “brushed him off and eventually quit going to church.” He “was fearful of telling anyone what had happened to him, and he began to drink heavily, causing deep concern with his parents and older brother.”
In June of this year, he broke down when questioned about his drinking, and he told his family about the abuse. The family filed a complaint with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office the next day.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish and expenses for future counseling.
Guidry faces a count of molestation of a juvenile and faced arrest in June. Formal charges have not yet been filed. Deputies say Guidry confessed to the acts.
On Monday afternoon, Diocese of Lafayette spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The Diocese of Lafayette received notice today that a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages has been filed by the family of a victim of sexual abuse by Father Michael Guidry.
Upon first hearing of the abuse complaints this past June, Bishop Douglas Deshotel immediately removed Father Guidry from ministry and the Diocese fully cooperated with law enforcement authorities during the subsequent criminal investigation. All protocols of the Diocese’s Safe Environment program, which mandates zero tolerance of abuse of any kind, were strictly followed throughout the entire process. We respect the victim’s courage in coming forward, in accordance with our Safe Environment policies, which encourage anyone who has information on any cases of abuse to come forward. From the beginning, pastoral outreach and counseling has been offered to the victim and his family. At the time of the complaint, there had been no previous claims of any abuse concerning Father Guidry during his 47 years as a priest.
Contrary to what may have been previously reported, the Diocese of Lafayette is not paying Father Guidry’s legal fees as the criminal case proceeds. The Diocese of Lafayette continues to respect all parties involved and cannot comment on any allegations set forth in the ongoing litigation.”
In a press conference after Guidry’s arrest, Deshotel was asked whether the diocese will pay for Guidry’s attorney.
“Church law requires that we help them to determine whether something is actually a crime or not,” Deshotel responded. We followed up with the diocese to ask for clarification.