The Diocese of Lafayette released a record of clergy members with credible accusations of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults.
“The people of Acadiana and the Catholic faithful, including trustworthy clergy, have justly called for greater accountability and transparency,” Bishop Douglas Deshotel said in a written statement just earlier to the release.
The list, published Friday, April 12, gives the particulars of 33 priests and four deacons from the Acadiana area, including two priests who served at Our Lady of Wisdom on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus.
Joseph Alexander and David Primeaux worked at UL Lafayette’s Catholic Church, according to the list. Primeaux served at Our Lady of Wisdom as an associate pastor in 1982. Alexander served at UL Lafayette from 1984 to 1988.
Primeaux, according to KATC, was accused of abusing at least 15 children between 1978 and 1983. Though no charges were filed against Primeaux, a lawsuit was settled. Primeaux killed himself in 2012.
KATC also stated that Alexander was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting a minor while stationed at the Saint Anthony Parish in Eunice. Alexander remained there until removed in 2002. The allegation against Alexander was made in January of this year. His current location is unknown.
Deshotel issued a video statement as well with a message denouncing the alleged sexual abuse in all forms.
“Sexual abuse is a scourge that has occurred in all segments of society,” Deshotel said. “It has occurred in families, schools, organizations and most sadly in the church. It is most heinous when men consecrated for God’s work have betrayed a sacred trust to protect and serve innocent children.”
Deshotel also condemned the church’s response to previous abuse allegations.
“The church’s response, especially in earlier days, was inadequate and wrong,” Deshotel also said in the video. “Rather than listening to survivors of abuse, helping them to heal and removing offenders, efforts were directed to protecting the institution. That has changed.”
The Diocese published a document detailing several frequently asked questions with answers to them as well.
Inside, Deshotel explains what has changed in how the Catholic church handles accusations of sexual abuse with it’s “Safe Environment” plan.
The “Safe Environment” program requires that any persons working with children within the Diocese must undergo a criminal background check before they are allowed to work. The program also requires that any applicants participate in initial training for “Safe Environment.” This instruction details out signs of sexual abuse, including ways to spot grooming.
“These screening processes work; since 2002, 159 individuals have been identified as unsuitable and have been prevented from volunteering or working with minors in our Diocese,” the document said. “Most importantly, ‘Safe Environment’ is more than a program. Rather, it promotes a culture of awareness and reduces the opportunities for abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.”
Three priests were removed from service to the Diocese and police were immediately informed, according to the Diocese. Credible allegations against two of the three priests were said to have happened decades ago.
Our Lady of Wisdom’s website cites that many of UL Lafayette’s students identify as Catholic.
“Our vibrant ministry serves the community at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where over 65% of students identify themselves as Catholic.” The website also adds, “Our Lady of Wisdom’s Parish extends to more than 600 families who make up our permanent parishioner community.”
All sexual abuse victims who have yet to come forward to the Diocese are encouraged to first report the crime to the local police first. Secondly, report the allegation to Chancellor Maureen Fontenot at (337) 261-5613.
UL Lafayette students who are in need of help with surviving sexual assault are also encouraged to use the Counseling and Wellness Center as well as the Office of Student Health Services.