‘Penance and prayer will help us open our eyes ….’

When the Archbishop ordained me a priest in December 1963, I was still in the seminary. During the spring semester of 1964, six of us newly ordained went to six different Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of New Orleans on a rotating basic for weekend pastoral experience.

When I went to one parish, several altar boys. revealed to me that they were being sexual abused by the associate pastor. I knew the Pastor very well and reported this information to him. The Archbishop removed the priest from active ministry. However, no criminal charges were brought against the priest. Nothing to my knowledge was done to help the altar servers deal with the abuse. Everything was kept quiet.

In the Fr. Gauthe case in the Lafayette Diocese, he was accused of sexually assaulting 27 youths over a period of years. Bishop Gerard Frey was on the hot seat because he knew about the abuses and moved the priest from parish to parish. I was a deacon under Bishop Frey when he was at St. Francis de Sales Church in Houma. He is not an evil man. He just did what everyone was doing at the time – trying to give the priest a chance to repent. Other bishops should have learned from the Lafayette and Boston situations but unfortunately they did not.

I want to close with the words of Pope Francis, “Penance and prayer will help us open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. Make us hunger and thirst for justice that impels us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary.”


About Wilmer Todd 125 Articles
Father Wilmer Todd is author and lives in Bourg. Until his retirement, he lived in Thibodaux.

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