Former New Orleans Priest Indicted by Grand Jury; SNAP Responds
We are grateful to the New Orleans jurors who delivered an indictment against retired Catholic priest Lawrence Hecker on charges of rape, kidnapping, crimes against nature, and theft. Fr. Hecker has evaded punishment for his crimes for more than seven decades. District Attorney Jason Williams is the only prosecutor to pursue this prolific perpetrator. We applaud him for his efforts, and we hope that they will result in a successful prosecution of Fr. Hecker. Children are always safer when their abusers are behind bars.
We also hope that all of the survivors of Fr. Hecker’s crimes feel a sense of justice and relief that law enforcement is finally taking action. Three New Orleans Archbishops (Hannan, Schulte, and Hughes) shielded this clergyman from the authorities. We say shame on them!
Last month, Fr. Hecker admitted on camera that between 1966 and 1979 he participated in "overtly sexual acts" with two boys and illicit behavior with other children. Today’s indictment said that on or about Jan. 1, 1975, through Dec. 31, 1976, the cleric is raped, kidnapped, and stole from one unidentified victim.
Fr. Hecker is on the list of those clergy in the Archdiocese of New Orleans who are alive, who have been "credibly" accused of sexually abusing a child, and who have been removed from ministry on the basis of those accusations. However, this list, released in November of 2018, was the first time that the priest was publicly acknowledged by his supervisors to have engaged in criminal behavior, The clergyman is also on the Diocese of Baton Rouge's list.
It is still disturbing to us that Catholic officials apparently can not muster enough courage to tell the truth. The Archdiocese admits receiving an accusation against Fr. Hecker in 1996, and that the cleric was accused of assaulting children in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Moreover, according to victim attorney Richard Trahant, the Archdiocese actually knew about Fr. Hecker's abuse in the 1980s but did nothing until 2002. That year the Boston Globe exposed the cover-up of clergy sex crimes in the Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic bishops in the United States responded to this by adopting the Dallas charter. Fr. Hecker, like many others across the country who were finally removed from ministry that year, was permitted to quietly retire, where he drew a pension and resided in Archdiocesan housing until recently. However, as noted above, the Archdiocese did not publicly disclose the reason behind this "retirement" until 16 years later.
SNAP called for a Federal Investigation into the Archdiocese of New Orleans in December 2020. We are elated for the victims who courageously shared their personal horrors of abuse with investigators, which we believe helped to make this current indictment a reality.
Again, we applaud the jurors and DA Williams for standing on the side of those who received life-long injuries from clergy sex crimes. We also honor DA Williams for demanding that the sealed information on Fr. Hecker be handed over to law enforcement. The only way to protect children in the future is by knowing what happened in the past, and to hold the decision-makers accountable. Fr. Hecker had unfettered access to children for decades, and it is long past time to learn the truth about when the Archdiocese really first knew of his crimes, who knew about them, and what they did in response.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)