Father Michael Fraser
Archdiocese of New Orleans
Accused: 1998, 2004
Assigned as follows:
- Ss. Peter and Paul (Pearl River, LA)
- St. Raphael the Archangel (New Orleans, LA)
- St. Rita (New Orleans, LA)
- Visitation of Our Lady (Marrero, LA)
- Dean, West Bank Deanery
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Fr. Michael Fraser:
The case of Father Michael Fraser is the perfect example of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ modus operandi for handling sexual abuse allegations for decades and into the modern era: it was forced to disclose information to parishioners and the general public only after intense media pressure and public criticism to do so.
In 1998, the family of a teenage boy filed a lawsuit on his behalf after their son disclosed that Fraser sexually abused him in 1991. The Archdiocese conducted a cursory internal investigation of the allegation, which Fraser denied, and the internal review board ultimately issued a decision that the boy was lying and Fraser should not face any repercussions. Archbishop Francis Schulte, who had the ultimate authority to determine Fraser’s fate in ministry, opted to agree with the review board. The boy was called a liar (“not credible”) and Fraser remained in ministry. The family and their tireless team of attorneys litigated the matter to the highest levels of Louisiana courts for nearly six years. In stark contrast, Fraser was rewarded by Archbishop Schulte with a promotion to Dean of the West Bank Deanery.
In January 2004, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced that Fraser was removed from his assignment at Visitation following a second allegation of abuse. This time, the victim reported that he was sexually abused by Fraser in the mid-1980s at Ss. Peter and Paul parish.
The Archdiocese quietly settled the 1998 lawsuit nearly seven years after it first called a teenage boy a liar. The 2004 allegation was also resolved by settlement, according to media reports.
In October 2004, the Archdiocese of New Orleans announced that Fraser was one of three priests ordered to stand trial in a secret canonical proceeding. A three-man panel of Canon lawyers would be asked to determine whether the allegations were credible. In such a proceeding, the ultimate punishment for anyone found guilty is laicization (removal from the priesthood). It is not uncommon for an accused priest to make a “plea deal” with the Archdiocese to avoid the trial; in many cases, the priest agrees to laicization immediately, or, in some cases, the priest opts to agree never to minister publicly or hold himself out as a priest again in order to continue receiving financial support from the Diocese. It is not clear what happened in Fraser’s case, but there is no indication from the Archdiocese that he was laicized or that the trial actually proceeded as ordered.
In 2005, Fraser was one of several suspended priests who filed defamation lawsuits against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, claiming that the Archbishop and his designees should not have announced (1) their removals from ministry nor (2) that the removals followed sexual abuse allegations. According to Fraser’s lawsuit, the Archbishop intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him and the other accused priests by telling the public Fraser had been accused of sexual abuse.
According to a 2009 media report, the Archdiocese of New Orleans settled a third allegation against Fraser. This time, the victim reported that he was sexually abused in 1983 while Fraser was assigned to St. Raphael parish.
In 2019, Fraser was the subject of two more allegations of abuse by men who said they were sexually abused by Fraser at St. Raphael as well. One man, whose abuse began in 1982 at the age of 10, said Fraser also abused him on trips to New York and Walt Disney World too.
It appears these suits were still pending at the time of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ bankruptcy filing in 2020.
According to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Fraser died in 2019. He is believed to have been residing near Dallas in the years leading up to his death.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for federal bankruptcy protection in April 2020. Our lawyers are now offering free legal consultations to discuss your legal options as a survivor of sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the New Orleans Archdiocese. Very strict filing deadlines will soon be set by the Bankruptcy Court. Most victims of abuse will never be able to recover damages if they miss this deadline, so please contact us to discuss your case today. Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to [email protected].