WDSU Digital, July 31, 2020
Local victims of Catholic clergy abuse want to see investigation records the Archdiocese of New Orleans has shared with the Vatican.
Members of the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests (SNAP) held a news conference Friday at Notre Dame Seminary, where area Catholic priests are trained. They called upon Archbishop Gregory Aymond to share all documents related to abuse probes.
The victims cite the December 2019 decision of Pope Francis to abolish what’s called the pontifical secret. It removed the veil of confidentiality covering church investigations into abuse.
“The pope requires all the bishops across the world to send their investigations up,” said Kevin Bourgeois with the SNAP New Orleans chapter. “This gives us the opportunity, outside of the court of law, to actually make sure our bishop followed canon law.”
In response, the Archdiocese of New Orleans provided background on the abolition of the Pontifical Secret, saying that it applies to matters other than clergy sexual abuse. It gave the example of diplomatic communications among the Vatican’s nunciatures, or embassies, around the world.
The response also included the statement that said the Vatican’s decision to lift the veil of secrecy from church cases of violence and sexual abuse.
“Removing the confidentiality was meant to eliminate any barriers to the church working with law enforcement and civil authorities on these cases as necessary,” the statement reads in part. “We are committed to creating safe environments for our children and vulnerable adults,”
The archdiocese also pointed to its Clergy Abuse Report in 2018 and subsequent updates that identify clergy members who have been credibly accused of abuse.”
“Victims and survivors of sexual abuse remain in our daily prayers and we remain committed to their healing,” the statement said.
“We don’t really need his prayers anymore,” Bourgeois said, referring to the archbishop. “What we require is him to live up to his words of being open, honest and transparent with us.”
John Anderson is an alleged abuse victim of former deacon George Brignac, who died in June while awaiting trial on a rape charge connected to his time at Our Lady of the Rosary. He was a teacher and oversaw altar boys for the church parish.
Brignac was 85 and had been acquitted three times previously on child sex abuse allegations, yet he retained an active presence in Catholic Church for decades. Anderson said the archdiocese has documented history of Brignac’s abuse and could readily make it available to victims.
“This is an opportunity for the archdiocese to step up and do the right thing for humanity,” Anderson said.
In a response to SNAP’s demands, the Archdiocese of New Orleans released a statement, saying:
“Removing the confidentiality was meant to eliminate any barriers to the church working with law enforcement and civil authorities on these cases as necessary.
We are committed to creating safe environments for our children and vulnerable adults.”
This article first appeared HERE.