Of the 57 priests identified on a list with “credible” claims of child sexual abuse released by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, six of them had assignments in St. Charles Parish.
Maintaining it was a move of healing for victims, survivors and the church, the Rev. Gregory Aymond, archbishop of New Orleans, said he presented the list to the New Orleans Attorney General and to the public on its website. Aymond also said the list consists of priests with sexual abuse claims based on allegations and accusations that could be “substantiated” through collecting evidence from as many alleged victims as possible and being reviewed by an outside investigator.
Along with the list, Aymond also released his letter to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse expressing his willingness to meet with them “so that I may walk with you in healing.”
“We went through more than 2,400 files,” Aymond said. “If there wasn’t enough in the file it affected the decision” to list the priest.
While many other dioceses in the U.S. are also releasing similar lists, the archbishop said he’d been weighing the pros and cons of the move a long time but was hesitant because he wanted to ensure the list was complete and accurate.
“My hope and prayer is that for the victims, for those who have survived, that this will be a time of healing,” he said. “For some, it will open the wounds again and we want to be there with them and to walk with them and to help them. For others, it will be a time of someone having recognized my pain and they are very much in my heart today.”
Aymond added, “We want to make sure we pursue justice in these cases. Jesus has told us the truth will set you free, and the truth leads us to justice.”
The list outlines allegations of boys and girls being sexually abused dating back more than 70 years and allegedly over decades.
For St. Charles Parish, two of the six priests listed are apparently still living while the archdiocese has declined to provide specifics on any of the cases.
“My hope and prayer is that for the victims, for those who have survived, that this will be a time of healing.” – Archbishop Gregory Aymond
According to the list released on Nov. 5:
Lawrence Hecker had three pastoral assignments in the parish among numerous ones in the area until he was removed from the ministry in 2002. Hecker served at Holy Family and St. Anthony Catholic churches, both in Luling, and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Destrehan. Times of service are not specified on the list, but the Archdiocese received an allegation of abuse in 1996 and states the “estimated timeframe of abuse” allegedly occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said Hecker’s records show the archdiocese did give his name to law enforcement agencies in Jefferson and Orleans parishes at the time it received the allegations. But McDonald also said she could not comment on any investigation that followed.
Patrick Keane, who also served at Holy Family, allegedly committed the abuse in the 1980s, according to the list. The complaint was received in 1994 and he was removed from the ministry a year later.
The late John Basty’s allegation of abuse dates back to the 1940s. The allegation on Basty was received in 1946. He served at St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan. He died in 1956.
The late Howard Hotard was removed from the ministry in 2002 after an allegation of abuse was made in 1995. Hotard is accused of abuse occurring in the early 1980s. Hotard served at St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan. He died in 2013.
The late Malcolm Strassel was accused of abuse occurring in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Archdiocese received a complaint on him in 2006. He served at St. Charles Borromeo. He died in 1987.
John Thomann was accused of abuse in 1966 with the Archdiocese and removed from the ministry in 1967. Of his numerous assignments, Thomann also served at St. Charles Borromeo. The estimated time of abuse alleged was in the 1960s. Thomann died in 1989.