The state parole board today unanimously rejected Fr. Michael Guidry's request for early release.
Guidry, 78, who was pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Morrow, pleaded guilty to the molestation of a 16-year-old boy. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was released for appeals because of COVID. After his sentencing appeals were denied he was sent back to prison.
His victim was an altar server, as his brothers had been. His father was Guidry's deacon and his mother taught catechism for the parish. His brother, his mother and his father all addressed the board prior to the vote. The victim did not attend the hearing, because, his father said, he couldn't bear it.
"Our son can't even bear to attend this hearing," said Scott Peyton. "He doesn't want to see him, hear his voice, hear his laughter. He (Guidry) does not take this seriously."
All three members of the board commented on Guidry's apparent lack of remorse and inability to admit that he's a sex offender.
When asked by board member Jim Wise why he wasn't showing any remorse, Guidry responded "I don't know. I am remorseful."
When asked how they could be sure he wouldn't re-offend, Guidry said that he would be in a nursing home "with just old people." It is the position of Guidry and his attorney that he has medical issues, including a head injury that resulted from a fall that caused his "mind to disappear" as well as a condition that is causing his feet "to die," and that his plan for release is to live in the Consolata Home in New Iberia "until he dies."
Under questioning from board member Bonnie Jackson, Guidry seemed unable or unwilling to characterize himself as a sex offender.
He told Jackson that he had participated in counseling and group therapy with other people "going through the same type of thing." She asked if he considered himself a sex offender.
"I didn't do all that kind of thing. This is the first time this kind of thing happened," he responded.
So Jackson went at the issue another way, asking how he would define a sex offender. Guidry responded that it was someone who forces himself on another person. Again, she asked if he considered himself a sex offender.
"Just that time, this time, for this," he responded.
In denying his parole, Jackson said she didn't feel he has owned up to what he did.
"I am concerned that you don't seem to have any real insight into your offense," she said. "You don't see to recognize yourself as being a sex offender, a pedophile in particular, and so i don't know that you've done a lot of that internal work that's necessary for you to accept the fact that you've committed a crime, caused a tremendous amount of harm to the victim, his family, and your faith community. You don't seem to have much awareness of that."
Jackson said the board had received letters of support for Guidry from people he went to seminary with, other pastors and some parishoners. However, she said they received "dozens and dozens" of letters from people opposed to his parole, including law enforcement. KATC Investigates made a public records request for the letters; all but those from public officials are shielded by state law. St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz and St. Landry District Attorney Chad Pitre both lodged their opposition to his parole, the public records show.
When she asked Guidry why all those letters had come in, he said "probably because they see how the family is reacting."
So Jackson went at it another way.
"What assurance can you give those people that you don't cause a threat or risk if you were to be released?" Jackson asked him. "What assurance can you give anyone that this won't happen again?"
In response, Guidry discussed his health issues, and his plan to go to a nursing home and "stay there until I die."
"Is that the only thing that would stop you from re-offending?" Jackson asked. "What about changes in your thinking that might prevent re-offending?
"I believe that that should never happen," Guidry said.
"We can all agree with you on that," Jackson responded. "But one of the things I'm hearing you say or think i hear is that you're not really convinced that you fit the criteria of a pedophile or sex offender because by your calculation this only happened one time. And I'm not sure that you understand your role in what happened in this situation."
Guidry responded that he doesn't "plan to allow that to happen at another time. It didn't happen for 50 years or whatever and I don't want it to happen again. I'll be in a nursing home with old people and I won't be able to leave."
The Peytons said they could answer Jackson's questions about remorse - because they don't believe the priest has any.
"I don't want another child or family to suffer at the hands of Fr. Guidry," the victim's dad, Scott Peyton, said. "He's a calculated predator who hides behind the collar of his Catholic priesthood. He's not remorseful because he doesn't feel he did anything wrong, which is the typical profile of a pedophile, a narcissist. I believe Fr. Guidry should remain in prison, where he belongs."
The family talked about the priest's deposition for the civil suit, which was settled this past spring.
Guidry testified that "it was part of his pastoral duty to do what he did to my brother. The Diocese has not laicized him. He is still a priest," said the victim's brother.
"Michael Guidry believes that molesting my brother was part of his calling, part of his priesthood, part of what his life is about, part of his very being," the victim's brother continued, and compared Guidry to terrorists who believe God calls them to kill others. "I want the board to please keep that in mind, that he believes it was part of his pastoral duty to do what he did to my brother. Absolutely he is not remorseful. why would he be? He believes God has called him to do this."
Scott Peyton, the victim's father, said that his family was always very involved in the Church, and that Guidry groomed his son and his entire family for years before molesting the teen.
"It took a lot of courage for my son to come forward and report the abuse. He suffered alone for three years before breaking his silence, because he was afraid to come forward for so many reasons," Scott Peyton said.
Before the abuse started, he was a "happy and active child" who was an altar server at the church for Fr. Guidry.
"He was an innocent child unaware of the evils of the world. After the abuse, during the three years of torture he suffered all alone" he was different, his father said. "His innocence was taken by someone he trusted, his family trusted, someone who is supposed to represent God on this earth."
Guidry used alcohol, cigarettes and gifts to manipulate the teen, Peyton said.
"He believed (victim) would never come forward, he said that in his deposition," he said. "He blames (victim), and he blames our family's reaction as to why there are people sending letters to opposition. Father Guidry told (victim) that he had committed a sin, and the molestation was an attempt to teach our son a lesson. That lesson is a tough one, and it's one that (victim) and our family has to live with every day. A lesson betrayal, confusion, hurt, pain, trauma and a crisis of faith.
"I can't even pray to my God without thinking of what this man did to our son."
Letitia Peyton, the victim's mother, asked the board to keep the priest in prison to give her son time to heal.
"He planned this crime. He committed it of his own free will. We know there are many like him who belong in a correctional facility, but Fr. Mike's crimes have been exposed and brought to light. His time in prison gives my son the hope of justice that he deserves and allows time for my son to heal," she said. "There is still no remorse. He can't even describe what remorse should be like, feel like, sound like."
Another priest has admitted that "he didn't want to know what Fr. Mike did or why he was in prison."
"If that is the case, who will correct him and help him understand the far-reaching effects of this crime he has committed?" she said. "We cannot allow this man to have parole when he still believes his crime was not a crime, has no remorse for his victim and has served so little time of his sentence."
Guidry's attorney assured the board that, if he were released, he would wear an ankle monitor for the remainder of his sentence and would be living in the nursing home until he died. She reiterated the medical issues he has as well. His sister told the board, via telephone, that she had supported him during his incarceration and would continue to do so should he be released.
When asked what he'd like to tell the board, Guidry said "the main thing I'd like to do, if I hurt people, I'd do anything in prayer or anything else I can do to bring about healing for them. That would be the main thing for me, following Jesus Christ."