UPDATED: 7 priests with local ties named in abuse list
Seven former priests who once served in the Tri-City area, including six who served at Morgan City’s Holy Cross Catholic Church, were targets of “credible allegations” of sexual misconduct, according to a list released Friday by the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.
The seventh priest served at Amelia's Thanh Gia.
At least four of the priests were accused of either soliciting a minor or improper sexual conduct with minors, in one case with a 9-year-old, according to the bishopaccountability.org website, which tracks allegations of abuse by priests. There was no indication in the letter or on the website about where the allegations originated.
Four of the priests with local ties "admitted, were convicted or pled guilty" to sexual misconduct, the letter said. Another was the target of civil litigation. Two more were the subject allegations the diocese characterized as credible.
In a letter accompanying Friday’s press release, Bishop Shelton Fabre said none of the accused men continue to function as a priest.
“I want to apologize for the egregious sins that have taken place,” Fabre wrote. “Let me be clear: the abuse of a child by anyone is sinful, abhorrent and evil, particularly when perpetrated by one vested with the sacred trust of God’s children. Furthermore, any attempt to cover up these sins is even more disturbing. I apologize to all who have been harmed. It is with deep respect and profound reverence that I humbly extend this apology.”
Pope Francis has urged ranking Catholic clergymen to admit past crimes and attempts to cover up sex crimes.
The Houma-Thibodaux Diocese extends west to the Atchafalaya River. Berwick, Patterson and other communities west of the Atchafalaya are in the Lafayette Diocese and were not part of Friday’s letter.
“Be assured that no priest in current active ministry in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux is on this list,” Fabre wrote. “I encourage you to visit our website: htdiocese.org/lightinthedarkness. On this webpage, you will also find the full text of my Pastoral Letter and other resources regarding this issue, including videos for adults, parents and youth.”
The priests who admitted or were convicted of misconduct are:
—Lawrence Cavell, who admitted to solicitation of a minor, served at Holy Cross in Morgan City, Sacred Heart in Montegut, Saint Francis de Sales in Houma, Saint Genevieve in Thibodaux, and Saint Mary in Raceland. He was ordained in 1989 and his priestly faculties — his ability to function as a priest — were removed by the diocese.
From the bishopaccountability.org website:
“Removed 3/03 after allegations arose that he solicited a minor for sex in late 1980s, prior to his ordination. Cavell, who had just gone on health leave from St. Mary’s Nativity Church when the allegations arose, admitted to the single offense. Diocese said incident involved ‘words, not acts.’ Cavell was said to be considering leaving the priesthood. No further information found.”
—Alexander Francisco, who admitted to inappropriate physical contact with a minor, served at Holy Cross in Morgan City, Saint Bernadette in Houma, Saint Bridget in Schriever, Saint Joseph in Thibodaux, and Saint Thomas Aquinas in Thibodaux. He was ordained in 1979 and his priestly faculties were removed by the diocese.
“Came to the diocese from the Philippines in 1991. Placed on leave 7/02 from St. Bernadette Church for a single offense of improper touching of an older teenager which occurred ‘a number of years ago.’ The victim and parents told the Bishop at some point and requested that Francisco get psychological treatment. This was provided and Francisco was cleared to return to work by a review committee. No other offenses. Not reported to police. May have requested laicized.”
—Dale Guidry, who pleaded guilty to online solicitation of a minor and was accused of molesting a minor, served at Holy Cross in Morgan City and St. Joseph in Galliano. He was ordained in 1982, and had his priestly faculties taken away by the diocese. He died Oct, 20, 2013.
“Ordained in Houma-Thibodaux LA Diocese. On leave several years, then resurfaced in Honolulu HI parishes. Later assigned to Amarillo TX. Removed Guidry from ministry in 1999; bishop would not give reason. Arrested in Montgomery County,TX 7/30/09, charged with two counts of Online Solicitation of a Minor. Pled guilty to both counts and was sentenced 7/15/10 to 5 yrs in prison. Died 10/20/13 in Stockton TX.”
—Patrick Kujawa, who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, served at Holy Cross and Saint Francis de Sales in Houma. He was ordained in 1996 and had his priestly faculties removed by the diocese. He is currently incarcerated.
“Sent for treatment after housekeeper found 220 pornographic photos in rectory 12/99. Arrested 1/00 and charged with 62 counts of downloading child porn. Pleaded guilty 12/00; received 10 yr probated sentence. Arrested again 2/04 after more porn found at Benedictine monastery where he was living. Received mandatory 10 yr prison sentence 4/04. Received add’l 10 yr sentence 9/04 for violating original probation.”
In addition to those priests, others named were the targets of credible allegations serious and unacceptable conduct with minors, ranging from inappropriate physical contact of a minor to molestation of a minor:
—Dac Nguyen, a priest of the Society of Domus Dei ordained in 1988, who served at Thanh Gia in Amelia. The diocese removed his priestly faculties.
—Daniel Poche, ordained in 1978, who served at Holy Cross, Sacred Heart in Cut Off, Saint Bernadette in Houma, Saint Francis de Sales in Houma, Saint Hilary in Mathews, and Saint Joseph in Chauvin. The diocese removed his priestly faculties.
Another priest who was the target of civil litigation was on the list:
—Etienne LeBlanc, ordained in 1971, served at Annunziata in Houma, Holy Cross in Morgan City, Holy Family in Dulac, Saint Eloi inTheriot, Sacred Heart in Cut Off, Saint Hilary in Mathews, and Saint Thomas Aquinas in Thibodaux. The diocese removed his priestly faculties.
“Placed on leave 8/07 from assignment at Annunziata Church in Houma after accusation of improper sexual activity with a 9 yr old boy. Worked at Holy Cross in Morgan City at the time. The accuser is now 26. LeBlanc denied allegations; sent for counseling1986-1987. Plaintiff filed civil suit 2007 & made a criminal complaint. In 7/11, court ordered Diocese to turn investigative rpt re LeBlanc over to Plaintiff. Diocese objects. Other victims known. Documents to remain sealed as of 8/11. Case settled 10/12.”
The diocese also wrote: “If you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being or has been abused by anyone, please first contact the civil authorities by calling the Louisiana Child Abuse Hotline at 855-452-5437. If you suspect that the abuser is a priest, deacon or member of church personnel, after calling civil authorities please also call Sister Carmelita. You may also call the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Outreach Line at 985.873.0026.”
A .pdf copy of the press release is attached to this story at StMaryNow.com.