Saint Louis Cathedral stands as a proud icon at the heart of New Orleans. Every day, tourists and Catholics from around the globe come to visit its beautiful halls. It is the center of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, where Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond leads the parishes of the region in their spiritual practice.
It’s also the center of controversy.
Last week, it was revealed that in 2009 the archdiocese quietly settled sexual abuse cases against priests Malcolm Strassel (Our Lady of Lourdes) and Michael Fraser (St. Raphael the Archangel Church) as well as Nolan Delatte, an educator who worked at St. Pius X School. It didn’t notify local Catholics of the settlements, in spite of the fact that the charges were found to be credible.
A few days later it was revealed that Louisiana’s five bishops were meeting to consider releasing the names of potentially dozens of state clergy members accused of sexual abuse. While some of these clergymen have passed on, several are still alive. The bishops are concerned with ensuring that they present a united front, releasing the names only if all of the state’s bishops agree, and in a way that they can all agree upon.
But keeping these names secret cannot be an option. The Catholic church has already lost credibility with local parishioners and in the eyes of Catholics around the world. As a religion that considers confession and reconciliation a sacrament, the church must come forward with these names, and soon. No leaving off the names of priests who have passed on. No leaving off names of lay persons. Every person who has had a credible accusation of sexual abuse against them must be brought into the light.
It doesn’t matter that these cases are decades old. Yes, these days a priest who is found to have credible allegations of sexual abuse is immediately defrocked and parishes are notified. But it wasn’t always the case. These older cases need to see the light of day. The victims of these priests need to be allowed to tell their stories to the world. It’s time for the Catholic church to clear the air, once and for all.
Failure to do so could have devastating consequences. Because their names have been kept secret, some of these men could have continued to work with children. That opens up the possibility that they may have continued to abuse children for years after being quietly retired from their church duties.
No. The only way for the church and her members to move on is for every name of every priest who has had a credible allegation to be brought forward. Evil hates the light. It’s time to put this issue under the brightest light possible.