Last August, something unprecedented occurred in the state of Louisiana. The Legislature and the Governor acted in the interests of its citizenry and against the interests of the powerful Catholic Church.
Governor John Bel Edwards has signed legislation removing deadlines for Louisiana’s child sex abuse victims to pursue damages in civil court, delivering a victory to survivors of abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy.
The new law, taking effect Aug. 1, will create a three-year window where all unresolved child molestation claims can be pursued in civil court, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. Until now, child sex abuse victims had until their 28th birthday to initiate litigation over their abuse.
Despite the new law, Louisiana’s largest Catholic institution, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, has mostly insulated itself from future lawsuits over the scandal.
As part of the archdiocese’ bankruptcy case filed last year, people alleging they were sexually preyed upon by archdiocesan priests and deacons had to file a claim for compensation by March 1, 2021 or forever lose the right to pursue justice in the courts.
However, the Archdiocese of New Orleans isn’t the only Catholic institution in the predominantly Catholic state. There are six other dioceses, namely, Alexandria, Shreveport, Houma-Thibodaux, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles.
Readers of our blogs will be aware that we’ve recounted the state’s sordid history concerning priest sexual abuse of children. In fact, I’ve opined that the latest iteration of Catholic priest abuse started in Louisiana with Father Gilbert Gauthe who served in the Diocese of Lafayette. Media coverage of the topic died down for a decade or so after the Gauthe affair but quickly picked back up again with the Boston Globe’s investigation of the Archdiocese of Boston.
However, the Archdiocese of New Orleans and the six suffragan dioceses all of histories of priest sexual abuse that rival or surpass their northern colleagues. Due to the particular cultural idosyncracies of the area and its overarching Catholicity, not much has been made of the problem of clerical abuse in the state. In fact, many abuse advocates were pleasantly surprised when the state’s elected officials changed the law allows survivors to hold the people responsible for these atrocities.
While media attention has thus far been focused on New York, New Jersey, and California who earlier passed similar legislation, there are lists of priests credibly accused in the state. So far, 81 Catholic priests have been accused in the Archdiocese of Louisiana, 28 in Alexandria, 21 in Baton Rouge, 12 in Houma-Thibodaux, 48 in Lafayette, and 5 in Lake Charles. The new law will inevitably lead to an expansion of the credibly accused.
In future blog posts, we will examine the nature of abuse in the state of Louisiana as well as the role of its bishops in the perpetuation and cover-up of these crimes against children. What you’ll read is tragic and astounding. Louisiana bishops allowed pedophile priests to prey on innocent children and rely on the Catholics inherent trust in their authority.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.
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