Former Priest-turned-Councilman Accused of Sexual Abuse
A Catholic priest who later parlayed his position into a career in politics has been accused of sexually abusing a child while holding bible study sessions at a Bronx church. This type of story demonstrates the importance of ensuring abusers and enablers are identified because the career trajectory of these men can allow them to go on to hurt others.
Fr. Louis Gigante has been accused of child sexual abuse in a new lawsuit filed under New York’s Child Victims Act. According to the complaint, Fr. Gigante sexually abused at least one boy while working at St. Athanasius Church in the Bronx. We applaud this brave survivor for coming forward and sharing his experience publicly, and we hope that his courage will inspire others who may have been hurt by Fr. Gigante to come forward and make a report to law enforcement.
This situation is especially notable due to the powerful positions that Fr. Gigante held, both as a priest and as a secular official. As a clergyman, he was the parish priest of Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, giving him access and familiarity to powerful officials within the government. Later, Fr. Gigante opened and operated community organizations in the Bronx and later was elected as a Bronx city-councilman for two terms. Each of these positions have afforded him prominence, visibility, and power, things that an abuser can use to select, groom, and abuse children. In a strange twist, Fr. Gigante is also the brother of the late Vincent Chin Gigante, a powerful mafioso. This darker connection is yet another angle that Fr. Gigante could have used to exploit other youths. We would not be surprised at all if other victims come forward.
We hope that each organization where Fr. Gigante worked is looking hard at his history with them and determining if any allegations of abuse were made during the time of his involvement. We also believe that New York’s attorney general should look into the former priest's business dealings, his shell companies, and his involvement with community organizations to determine if any additional crimes were committed.
Finally, it is critical to note that these revelations never would have happened were it not for the CVA. This important law opened the courtroom doors to survivors of childhood abuse. We hope this story inspires lawmakers in other states to take up statute of limitations reform so that they too can protect their communities from hidden predators in powerful positions.
CONTACT: Brian Toale, SNAP New York (646-549-0372, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), Michael McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)