LA- New stories shed light on Lafayette pedophile priest case
For immediate release: Monday, July 14, 2014
Two new stories by Minnesota Public Radio – a ten minute piece and startling one hour documentary – shed disturbing light on the case of a Lafayette, Louisiana predator priest. Both are available now online.
It includes painful interviews with Louisiana clergy sex abuse victims and their family members who contradict the carefully-crafted but patently false image of former Lafayette Bishop Harry Flynn as a “reformer” on abuse.
This is a very close look at how Flynn dealt with the horrific Fr. Gilbert Gauthe case. We are grateful that MPR unveiled Flynn's deceit in Louisiana. For decades, church officials have claimed that prelates like Flynn and Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley “cleaned up” abuse in dioceses far earlier than their colleagues. In our view, that's a convenient and self-serving myth.
These Catholic officials were simply forced to deal with clergy sex crimes and cover ups sooner than their peers. And they learned, as MPR reports, that continued secrecy was key. Yet they used smart public relations and soothing words and symbolic gestures to foster a false impression of change.
MPR reports that the lesson Flynn learned in Lafayette and encouraged other bishops to follow was “express concern for victims, hire aggressive attorneys and disclose nothing. He did not ask the Vatican to kick out a single abusive priest.”
The piece also quotes Gauthe's defense lawyer as saying that Gauthe molested more than 200 kids but Flynn and other church officials refused to aggressively seek them out.
Bishop Michael Jarrell has a simple choice. He can do nothing, be complacent, and let dozens keep struggling in silence, shame and self blame. Or he can show courage, step up, and reach out – using his vast diocesan and parish resources – to those who are in pain because of crimes by Fr. Gauthe and cover ups by his Catholic supervisors and colleagues.
Jarrell can start by helping Scott Gastal, who was assaulted by Gauthe and who can't work now because he suffers from extreme PTSD and insomnia. Gastal's courage helped prevent other boys from being devastated. He deserves compassion and help.
We hope Jarrell will show courage and compassion. But we are not optimistic. (He hid the crimes of a Thibodeaux priest, Fr. Robert Melancon.)
So we call on current and former Lafayette Catholic church staff and members to help with this outreach too. It's crucial that they ask every one they know if Gauthe or other predator priests hurt them. It's crucial that they gently prod them to get independent help. It's crucial that something be done – other than silence and inaction by Catholic officials – if true healing is to happen in Lafayette.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)