Suspended Catholic Deacon in New Orleans Faces Criminal Investigation

A Catholic deacon from the Archdiocese of New Orleans who was suspended in August has been accused of raping a child and is being criminally investigated. The crime is alleged to have occurred twenty years ago and has stayed hidden until this year, making us fear that there are other victims still suffering in silence. We call on Archdiocesan officials to spread the news about these accusations throughout their borders so that others who may have been hurt will know they are not alone and can come forward to get help.

Deacon Virgil Maxey “V.M.” Wheeler, III, was removed from ministry in August, meaning Catholic officials were no doubt aware then that he had allegedly hurt a child. We know that child abusers often seek jobs and hobbies that get them close to their targets. Deacon Wheeler only became a cleric in 2018 and we fear that he may have chosen this role in order to increase his access to vulnerable boys and girls. Archbishop Gregory Aymond should immediately visit any parish where Deacon Wheeler worked and beg anyone who experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse to come forward and report to law enforcement.

It is notable that in the face of this recent scandal, Archbishop Aymond and other Church officials continue the dangerous practice of saying publicly that abuse is in the past. Yet, this deacon was suspended in August, Fr. Patrick Wattigny was arrested last month, and Fr. Travis Clark also got caught in October in an adult tryst that led to the arrest of the priest and the two sex workers he hired for his photoshoot. It is clear that there are many problems that the Church is still facing in the present.

The fact is that it takes most victims until they are in their 50's to report abuse. The reason there are fewer reports today about abuse is that the more recent victims have not yet reached that stage in their lives. We implore Archbishop Aymond to stop propagating the myth that Catholic priest sex abuse is in the past. Over the past three years, 100 clergymen and Church workers have been arrested for crimes all over the country, including New Orleans. Given the lag in reporting sex abuse, and the small percentage of victims who ever report, we believe that these 100 represent the tip of the iceberg.

CONTACT: Kevin Bourgeois, SNAP New Orleans (neworleans@snapnetwork.org, 504-376-5445), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, zhiner@snapnetwork.org)

(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)


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