Exclusive: US archdiocese must submit clergy-abuse documents to police

The Guardian

By: in New Orleans and David Hammer of WWL Louisiana

Date: April 24, 2024

In criminal investigation, New Orleans judge demands paper trail from archbishop Gregory Aymond all the way to the Vatican

The criminal investigation into child sexual abuse in New Orleans’ Roman Catholic archdiocese has entered a major new phase, after a judge ordered the church to turn over records to Louisiana state police showing how it responded to abuse allegations over the last several decades.

The order signed on Monday seeks files that would identify every priest and deacon accused of abusing children while working in the US’s second-oldest archdiocese; when those complaints were first made; and whether the church turned those cases over to police, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Significantly, police are also demanding copies of all communications among New Orleans’ current archbishop, Gregory Aymond, his aides and their superiors at the Vatican, those sources said.

Asked for comment on Wednesday, an archdiocese spokesperson said: “As always, the archdiocese will continue to cooperate in all law enforcement investigations.”

It appears to be the first time that authorities investigating the New Orleans archdiocese’s role in the decades-old, worldwide Catholic clerical child abuse scandal have sought the full set of abuse-related documents in the local church’s possession.

In the rare cases where New Orleans-area clergymen have been convicted of – or even prosecuted for – child rape or molestation, investigators have generally focused on documents related to the individual defendants and their direct superiors.

Now, by essentially seeking the entire paper trail generated by the scandal, investigators could also learn what top church officials in Rome knew of the breadth of abuse at the local level in New Orleans.

It also introduces the possibility that authorities could one day produce a watershed report about the extent of Catholic clergy abuse in New Orleans as detailed as those published by prosecutors in states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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