Five men - three of them Acadiana residents - have sued the Vatican in federal court, alleging that a now-deceased monsignor molested and raped them when they were altar boys at St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church in St. Martinville.
The five alleged victims are identified as John Does in the suit, which their attorney says was filed in federal court in New Orleans on Friday. One lives in Illinois, one in Florida, two in St. Martin Parish and one in Lafayette Parish.
The suit names as defendants the Vatican City State, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and its past, current and future Archbishops; the Diocese of Lafayette and its past, current and future Archbishops. It accuses the church of knowing that the late Rev. Monsignor Kenneth Romain Morvant sexually abused children.
The alleged abuse took place while the victims were children, and it took place at the church and Trinity Catholic Elementary School, both in St. Martinville. The filing of the suit was announced via press release issued by Houston attorney Felecia Peavy, who represented the victims. The suit does not yet appear in the Court's online records.
"It was widely known among Vatican officials in New Orleans and Lafayette that Morvant was a “big personality” in the communities where Vatican officials assigned him," the release states. "It was also common knowledge among Vatican officials that Morvant had a habit of inviting adolescent boys to “sleepovers” where Morvant’s practice was to drug the boys with alcohol and then to rape and sexually abuse them and exploit them. Morvant carried out all of his crimes on
Catholic Church property owned by the Vatican."
This is not the first time Peavy has sued the vatican and various dioceses over alleged sexual abuse by priests; in 2013 she filed a federal suit on behalf of a man who said he was a victim of Mark Broussard. That suit was settled in 2014, records show.
The suit alleges that Morvant raped, molested and sexually abused and exploited them and other Catholic boys at the St. Martinville school and church, "just as other Catholic boys had been raped and molested and sexually abused and exploited by Morvant between the mid-1950's and 1961 while the Archdiocese and its duly appointed archbishop supervised and controlled Morvant’s education and training as a seminarian and “candidate to the priesthood” for the Roman Catholic Church at Saint Joseph Seminary College and St. John’s Home Missions Seminary."
We've reached out to the Diocese for a comment, but it is unlikely they have been served with the lawsuit yet.
Back in August 2018, we reached out to the Diocese for comment regarding similar allegations against Morvant and received the following statement:
"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."