Attention to Clergy Sexual Abuse Began in Louisiana in 1983

| Jun 24, 2021 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Do you think the Catholic clergy sexual abuse and cover up crisis started in Boston in 2002? Think again.  It really started much earlier, in 1983 in fact, down in Louisiana.

And now – finally, thankfully – there’s a new Louisiana law that may benefit some of those very first clergy abuse survivors who stepped forward, long before the pubic had even heard the phrase ‘pedophile priest.’

Many of those brave pioneers were victims of Fr. Gilbert Gauthe, the first U.S. priest to generate nationwide headlines due to his stunning crimes against kids.

His victims started filing abuse reports in the early and mid-1980s, eventually leading to Fr. Gauthe’s 1985 conviction on charges of molesting at least 39 boys, mostly in the Lafayette diocese.

Imagine, for a moment, what they endured. Horrific childhood sexual trauma, inflicted by a so-called “man of God,” who represented Jesus, who could forgive their sins and help them attain eternal life in heaven where they would be surrounded by family and friends. And again, all this back in the day when the sexual violation of kids was literally unspeakable and when virtually no one heard, thought or talked about child sex crimes committed and concealed by men of the cloth.

And now, decades later, some of those very same victims – along with perhaps hundreds or thousands of others hurt in institutions (churches, schools, camps, day care centers and the like) – FINALLY have a real shot at justice.

Why? Because Louisiana lawmakers joined the movement towards greater protection of the vulnerable and greater justice for the wounded, by enacting a civil window which enable them to have their day in court and expose those who committed or concealed (or ARE committing and concealing) the most heinous crime possible against children: child sexual abuse.

It’s hard for victims to come forward now, even after the on-going clergy sex abuse crisis has been widely publicized for decades. Imagine, if you can, just how much harder it was for Fr. Gauthe’s victims to step forward decades ago.

And of course in the intervening decades, countless other boys and girls have been traumatized by sick clerics pursuing their own sexual gratification under the guise of administering sacraments and teaching religion and offering guidance to often struggling youngsters. They too, for the most part, have been frozen out of the justice system due to archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statutes of limitations, statutes that are now temporarily suspended, allowing those who are suffering in shame, silence and self-blame to step into the light, and the courtroom, to publicly ‘out’ criminals who have evaded detection for years.

It’s one heck of an opportunity. And a long overdue one.

The law extends to molesters and enablers in all kinds of workplaces. And to get an idea of just how widespread abuse is in Louisiana, consider just how many proven, admitted and credibly accused abusers are already publicly exposed in just one such workplace: the state’s Catholic seven dioceses.

According to the widely-respected and extraordinarily accurate website, here are the numbers of publicly accused child molesters across the state, diocese by diocese:

New Orleans 95

Houma-Thibodaux 12

Baton Rouge 21

Lafayette 48

Alexandria 29

Lake Charles 6

Shreveport 1

So throw in other denominations and schools and music programs and athletic leagues and Scouting programs and ballet classes and tutoring arrangement and library reading clubs and chess trainers. . . well, you get the idea: many deeply wounded adults, who were hurt in these settings – now have both the chance to help themselves AND protect others by using the time-tested, open, imperfect but best-in-the-world court system.

Finally, if you’re wondering whatever became of Fr. Gauthe, that now-notorious predator, keep reading.

He eventually served ten years in prison and was sued multiple times. In 1997, he pled ‘no contest’ to abusing a three-year-old boy in Texas and was given seven years’ probation. That same year, he was charged with raping a young girl at gunpoint and was jailed for two years until those charges were dropped.

As of 2008, he was living near Houston. In 2008, he was arrested for failing to register as sex offender and served two years in jail, winning release in 2010. In 2014, he was living in San Leon, Texas.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims of clergy sexual abuse in Louisiana.  Our lawyers offer free and confidential legal consultations to discuss your legal options as a survivor of sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the Catholic Church.