John Anthony Mary Engbers
Alleged Abuse: At least nine female victims claimed sexual abuse by Engbers from the late 50’s to early 70’s in Vermilion and Calcasieu Parishes. Four lawsuits were located, several of which named more than one victim since they were in the same family, and all were settled with the diocese without ever going to trial. No criminal charges were filed.
Where is he now: Died in 1989
Bishop Gerard Frey announced in 1985 that Father John Anthony Mary Engbers had resigned and left America to return to his native Holland – which had no extradition agreement with the U.S. – after a lawsuit was filed against him.
At that time, two women alleged that Engbers had molested them after their family moved into the rectory when their home was destroyed by Hurricane Audrey in 1957. The women were five and seven years old at the time, and they say that’s when the abuse started, though it would last until their teenage years.
The priest reportedly told them that God ordered him to carry out, with their help, sexual experiments designed to teach him about love so he could help others coming to him for advice. According to lawsuits filed, the oldest sister says she reported the abuse to another priest when she turned 17, but says she was discouraged from reporting it further.
In 1984, when one of the victims said she was told by a friend that Engbers was getting close to her daughters, she then made a complaint to the diocese. Court records say the diocese waited at least six months to remove Engbers, allowing him to retire.
That delay is what brought about the suit; attorney Anthony Fontana swore in a 1995 affidavit that he filed the suit on the sisters’ behalf after Engbers hadn’t been removed from the parish seven months after they reported it. Fontana said Engbers came to him after the complaints were made, and admitted he molested two of the victims – because only two of the victims had come forward at that time. Fontana also submitted a letter reportedly written by Engbers to one of the victims.
In another 1985 lawsuit, Engbers is accused of taking four female girls into the countryside to pick wildflowers in Lake Charles in 1952 or 1953. Two of the women who went on that excursion say they were molested; one was 3 years old, the other girl 6 or 7 years old. The suit says the abuse was discovered when the mother of the toddler caught her playing sexually with another child. When scolded for it, the child reportedly said that Father John does it and he said it was okay.
The parents reportedly confronted Engbers in front of another priest, and he allegedly admitted to it. The other pastor present told the parents he would make sure the priest got psychiatric help and would not be able to do it again; however the suit alleges that the church didn’t keep its promise and transferred Engbers to another church instead. That suit was settled in 2001.
In a suit filed in 1989, a child’s parents alleged that Engbers sexually abused the three or four year old girl while serving as a priest in Gueydan in the early 1970s. The suit says the child didn’t realize the damages from the abuse until in college in 1988. The parents blamed the church for not removing him as a priest following the accusations in Lake Charles in the 1950’s. The suit was settled in 1996.
In a 1995 deposition, Bishop Frey said he spoke with Engbers after he received a complaint from a woman about her sister’s abuse. Engbers “never admitted it,” Frey testified. “Absolutely not, but he was persecuted poor devil.” The Bishop said he thought the allegations were “very exaggerated” and “the man finally fled the country- he’s a native of Holland- and he became psychotic. It was terrible. He finally died.”
Ordained 1949 at St. John Cathedral
July 1, 1949 – New Iberia, Assistant
1949-1953 – Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles, Assistant
1949-1952 – St. Hubert’s in Goosport (Calcasieu)
1949-1953 – St. Henry in Eastdale
Around 1952- One victim’s parents reportedly confronted Engbers, but another pastor persuaded them not to take action, promising them that Engbers would get help, and no one else would be abused.
1953-1954 – Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Arthur, Assistant
1953-1954 – Little Flower in Shell Beach
1953-1954 – St. Gertrude in Andrus Cove
1954-1956 – St. Anthony of Padua in Eunice, Assistant
1954-1956 – St. Catherine’s in Durald
1954-1956 – St. Agnes in Eunice
1956-1968 – St. Helen’s in Louisa, Pastor
1956 – 1968 – Our Mother of Mercy in Weeks Island
1956 – 1961 – St. Joan of Arc in Glencoe
1956 – 1973 – Diocesan position: Approved Advocates and Procurators
Around 1967 – Another victim reportedly told another priest about the abuse, but she says she was discouraged from going any further with the complaint.
1968 – 1977 – St. Peter’s in Gueydan (supervised former priest Lane Fontenot who was convicted on sex abuse charges)
1968- 1977 – St. David’s in Marceaux
1973 – 1976 – Diocesan position: Art and Architecture Commission
1977 – 1980 – St. John the Evangelist in Mermentau, Pastor
1977 – 1980 – St. Margaret’s in Estherwood
1980 – 1985 – Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Leroy, Pastor
1985- First lawsuit filed alleging sexual abuse
1987 – Retired