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Man claims abuse by St. Martin Parish priest; Diocese responds

Posted: 3:53 PM, Aug 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-28 20:30:29-04

An Iberia Parish man has come forward with allegations he suffered sexual abuse decades ago at the hands of a late St. Martin Parish priest.

Doug Bienvenu says he and dozens of other boys were abused by Kenneth Morvant, a priest at St. Martin de Tours Church in St. Martinville.

Bienvenu says he blocked the abuse for more than four decades. But when he found out that his alleged abuser was buried prominently on the church grounds, he decided to find others who experienced the abuse and take action.

“He’s buried here on a church that we trusted in that failed us. And it’s just not right,” Bienvenu said.

He said the Diocese and the church knew about the abuse but never took action against Morvant.

“I’m sure he’s dealing with it with God, but it’s something we’ll never forget. And the public needs to know about this man,” Bienvenu said.

Two years ago, Bienvenu and several other men, all of them listed as John Does, sued the Diocese of Lafayette, St. Martin de Tours and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over Morvant’s alleged abuse. But because the lawsuit was filed in district court in Washington, a judge dismissed the claims against the church and the Diocese, saying the lawsuit was not filed in the proper court.

Attorneys for the Conference of Catholic Bishops have filed motions to dismiss Bienvenu’s and the other men’s still-pending claims against them, claiming the statute of limitations has expired. A judge’s decision on that is still pending.

KATC spoke with Marcus Spagnoletti, the Texas attorney who represents Bienvenu and the other plaintiffs in that lawsuit. He said he’s working with a Louisiana attorney to revive the claims against the Diocese and the church in St. Martin Parish, where the suit could move forward.

“What we want out of this is whatever we can recover,” Bienvenu said. “Whatever moneys — that’s all there is left and that’s fine. And on top of that, to get this person who’s done such a horrible thing — instead of being praised, for the people that don’t know — that he needs to be removed from these grounds.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Diocese of Lafayette acknowledged the claims:

The Diocese of Lafayette has been made aware of allegations of sexual abuse of minors against Father Kenneth Morvant (deceased), alleged to have happened 35 to 40 years ago.  Father Morvant served as a priest from 1961 to 2003, a period of 42 years, before he died on December 13, 2003.  There is no evidence of Father Morvant being implicated in the abuse of minors.  These allegations, however, are being given appropriate consideration.  Father Kenneth Morvant, though deceased, maintains the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise.