Two Billboards On Johnston Street Urge Bishop Deshotel For Transparency
UPDATE: 10/17/18, 7:25AM
The Diocese of Lafayette has announced that they WILL release the names of the clergy who have had credible accusations levied against them. The release date is yet to be determined.
Two billboards in Lafayette are asking Bishop Deshotel of the Lafayette Diocese for transparency in the Catholic priest sexual abuse cases.
The clergy abuse crisis began in Lafayette in 1983 when Father Gilbert Gauthe was suspended from the priesthood. It was later discovered the Diocese knew Gauthe was abusing children as early as 1974 but he was allowed to remain in ministry and transferred to different parishes whenever complaints were made.
At least 15 more priests from the Diocese were alleged to have abused over 100 children. The Diocese and its insurance companies have paid out $26 million in settlements for those victims, but the Diocese never publicly named the priests or referred them to law enforcement for prosecution.
“Bishop Jarrell sees no purpose in such action," Monsignor Richard Greene, media liaison, wrote in response to a request from The Daily Advertiser for the priests' names in 2014.
Here's the thing: NOT releasing those names appears to be a felony, according to Louisiana State Revised Statute 14:25
Accessories After The Fact:
An accessory after the fact is any person who, after the commission of a felony, shall harbor, conceal, or aid the offender, knowing or having reasonable ground to believe that he has committed the felony, and with the intent that he may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. - RS 14:25 (Read the full statute here)
Even if the accused hasn't been arrested or convicted, an accessory after the fact may still be tried and punished.
The billboards, which rotate on an electronic sign near the corner of Johnston Street and Ambassador Caffery in Lafayette, give a simple message. One asked "How Many More?", and the other said "Release The Names", and both refer to the website, www.bishop-accountability.org. (KLFY TV10 ran a story on it here)
The mission statement of Bishop Accountability:
Bishop Accountability is non-profit organization, and their mission is to consolidate and preserve the records of abuse by priests.
The organization wants to hold the bishops accountable since they were the "bosses" of the abusive priests, so-to-speak, and, by some interpretations of the law, culpable.
The "account" of the bishops' responsibility for the crisis has so far come through the witness of survivors, through documents unearthed by law enforcement and the legal ystem, through depositions taken by lawyers, and through media reports. BishopAccountability.org is dedicated to consolidating and preserving that record. - Bishop Accountability
There are 25 priests listed on the Bishop Accountability page for the Diocese of Lafayette, starting with Arceneaux and ending with Zaunbrecher. Some of the priests are long deceased, others are long convicted; some admitted to the accusations, and others have been sued. The Bishop Accountability Posting Policy sets the guidelines as to if and when a priest's name is taken from the list, following the laws of the United States. Of course, all accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law or until they confess to the allegations.
More recently, a second woman has levied accusations of sexual abuse against a recently suspended Monsignor in the Diocese of Lafayette.
As for the person who paid to have the billboards put up: KLFY TV10 reportedly contacted the billboard company (they use a 3rd party to service the digital billboard) who said they had no information to share.