When we see news accounts of abuse and cover-up in Catholicism, we usually hear the narrow terms used: “pedophile priests,” “predator priests,” or “abusive priests.” It’s less common to hear broader, more accurate phrases like “abusive clergy” or “child molesting clerics.” Even less often, we hear specific titles of Catholic clergy: seminarians, nuns, monks, brothers, monsignors, pastors, bishops, auxiliary bishops, archbishops, and cardinals. But let’s be clear: in every rank of the Catholic ordained, one can find far too many who have committed or concealed (or worse, are committing or concealing) devastating crimes against the innocent and vulnerable. That’s true, of course, with other religious groups and youth-serving organizations as well.
In the Catholic world, perhaps the most frequently overlooked ordained position is the deacon. And yes, one can find many deacons who are predators, especially on credible sources of information like BishopAccountability.org. For those less familiar with Catholicism, deacons are men who study, get ordained, and do some – but not all – of the work that priests do (presiding at funerals, for instance, but not saying masses). They can be a deacon permanently and be married, or be a ‘transitional deacon,’ a step toward becoming a fully ordained priest. (They are sometimes addressed as “Rev. Mr.”)
Deacons spend much time with other Catholic clerics, often wearing collars and vestments (albs and stoles) that can make them look like Catholic priests. For these reasons and others, deacons are obviously often given respect and adoration that priests often enjoy. That means families trust deacons, tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, and usually trust them around children. That, in turn, means that if you know someone who spent time as a youngster around a deacon, you may want to ask that person, “Hey, did Deacon Bob ever do anything that made you feel uncomfortable, like touching you in a way that felt creepy?” And if you’re a Catholic, you may want to contact your bishop and ask, “Are there any proven, admitted, or credibly accused abusive deacons in this diocese? If so, are they listed on the website, like many such priests are?” In fact, we at Horowitz Law know that often, this is not the case. Child sex crimes by deacons tend to attract less attention than those committed by other clergy.
Evidence from three states; Colorado, Louisiana, and Maine – proves this. Generally speaking, right now, victims of abusive clergy have the most legal options in these states. That is why we selected them. None of the dioceses in Colorado or Maine list accused deacons on their websites. There are nearly 15,000 active deacons across the US, so on its face, this suggests that Colorado and Maine’s bishops are not as forthcoming as they should be about crimes by deacons.
Louisiana, however, is a different story. Across the seven Catholic dioceses in the state, a number of deacons are proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesters. They include Deacon Lester Breaux, Deacon George Brignac, Deacon Willis Broussard, Deacon Leonard J. Freyou, Deacon Shawn Jude Gautreaux, Deacon Lloyd Glapion, Deacon Louis Hanemann, Deacon Raymond M. Jones, Deacon James Lockwood, Deacon (and later Brother) Edmund Normantowicz, Deacon (and later Father) Robie Robichaux and Deacon Virgil Maxey Wheeler. NOTE: The Baton Rouge church website lists two accused priests working as deacons in the diocese: Fr. Daniel Lemoine in Pierre Part and Fr. Myles Joseph Kearney in Baton Rouge.
We’ll write more on this topic later – which clerics tend to be overlooked and why that is – in future blogs. The takeaway, for now, is this: If you were abused by a deacon, you might have legal options. And if you’re unsure – “He wore the Roman collar and told us to call him Tom. None of us are sure if he was a priest or a deacon” – do NOT let your uncertainty deter you from looking into your legal rights.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or email sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected]. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.