After 20 years, North Jersey memorial to clergy abuse victims still stirs strong emotions

By William Westhoven

Twenty years ago this month, what’s thought to be the nation’s first memorial to victims of clergy sexual abuse was unveiled at a church in a quiet corner of Morris County.

Today, two of the men who achieved that milestone at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mendham are still challenging church leaders to acknowledge that “a lot of work still needs to be done.”

“They still don’t get it,” said Monsignor Kenneth Lasch of his fellow clergy.

Lasch, now retired, was pastor at St. Joseph’s in 1994 when victims of long-rumored sexual abuse at the church finally went public.

A Millstone memorial to victims of church sex abuse outside St. Joseph Church in Mendham, the 400-pound memorial honors victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including victims at the parish itself. July 26, 2018. Mendham, NJ
A Millstone memorial to victims of church sex abuse outside St. Joseph Church in Mendham, the 400-pound memorial honors victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including victims at the parish itself. July 26, 2018. Mendham, NJ

After the first of those survivors, Mark Serrano, came forward, “my life changed forever at that point,” Lasch said in an interview, as the U.S. marked National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

A local tragedy gained national attention

Serrano would later became a national advocate for clergy abuse victims through the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). He took his story to the New York Times in 2002. The resulting front-page article brought national attention to a shocking local scandal.

More victims would soon come forward, including William Crane Jr., who with his twin brother was abused by clergy both at St. Joseph’s and the nearby Delbarton School, where he lived on campus while his father served as assistant headmaster.

A priest at St. Joseph’s, the Rev. James Hanley, was eventually defrocked after admitting he molested at least a dozen children and claiming Crane was the last.

Lasch, then St. Joseph’s pastor, was “floored” by the allegations but stood behind Serrano as he shared his story with the public.

“It wasn’t the first time that I had come across a priest predator, but this was the first time I came across something as terrible as Hanley,” Lasch said. “He was the worst, a serial predator.”

Father Kenneth Lasch was a priest in Mendham when he heard about one of the first cases of abuse.
Father Kenneth Lasch was a priest in Mendham when he heard about one of the first cases of abuse.

Crane, who now lives in the Seattle area, also spoke recently about the remembrance he helped establish at St. Joseph’s, known as the Millstone Memorial.

Mendham memorial’s Biblical inspiration

Crane began funding the initial design and creation of the Millstone Memorial, a project that also gained national attention. He credits Lasch for navigating the church’s opposition to the project and getting the 420-pound circular basalt stone placed outside of the church in 2004.

The millstone, Crane said, was chosen for its Biblical symbolism in the Book of Matthew: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

The verse is engraved on a plaque on the memorial, which once included two child-sized figurines of a boy and a girl. Those were vandalized several years ago and still have not been replaced, but the millstone itself remains intact.

“It’s a miracle in itself that the Millstone Memorial is still there,” Crane said. “I still see opposition from church leaders who are in denial to this day.”

“Somebody questioned me when it first went up,” Lasch said. “We owe these victims a tribute for what they have suffered. So don’t give me any crap about it being inappropriate. It’s part of our history and we don’t want it to happen again.”

Lasch said he is unaware of any recognition or related events conducted by the church for the memorial’s 20th anniversary. The Diocese of Paterson did not respond to multiple requests for comment this month.

A Millstone memorial to victims of church sex abuse outside St. Joseph Church in Mendham, the 400-pound memorial honors victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including victims at the parish itself. July 26, 2018. Mendham, NJ
A Millstone memorial to victims of church sex abuse outside St. Joseph Church in Mendham, the 400-pound memorial honors victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, including victims at the parish itself. July 26, 2018. Mendham, NJ

Delbarton lawsuits settled

In 2004, the diocese settled lawsuits with 21 of Hanley’s accusers for nearly $5 million. Haney died in 2020, spending his final days in a nursing home. He was still receiving a stipend from the church when he died, his attorney said at the time.

In 2018, the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey and St. Mary’s Abbey, which operates Delbarton, settled five more lawsuits with men who alleged they were sexually abused by five monks — including a former headmaster of the school.

Another priest and former Delbarton teacher at the center of additional lawsuits admitted to having sexual encounters with about 50 boys, according to court documents. That priest, Timothy Brennan, who was accused in three of the settled cases, was convicted in 1988 for aggravated sexual contact with a 15-year-old Delbarton student. Brennan died in 2019.

Suicide spurs Millstone Memorial

As the clergy-abuse scandal gained more attention in 2003, Crane, Lasch and others gathered at the funeral of another Hanley victim, James Thomas Kelly, after Kelly killed himself by stepping in front of a train. They discussed the need for a permanent memorial.

“Many folks told me it would never happen, the church would never allow it,” Crane said. “My response was that I would put the memorial on a trailer and have it paraded around every Sunday until they did allow it.”

William Crane Jr. became an advocate for child victims of clergy sexual abuse after being abused by priests as the Delbarton School in Morris Township and St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Mendham.
William Crane Jr. became an advocate for child victims of clergy sexual abuse after being abused by priests as the Delbarton School in Morris Township and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mendham.

Twenty years later, the memorial still resonates with Crane. Living 3,000 miles away from his worst nightmares, he still struggles with his ordeal and had “kept my sword down” for about three years until a reporter contacted him recently about the anniversary.

“This battle has taken a toll on me and countless other victims,” said Crane, 58, who also became a SNAP advocate and remains critical of the Catholic Church.

“It’s like trying to boil the Atlantic Ocean with a BIC lighter,” he said. “It’s an exercise in futility to think that at any point they are going to change. It will wear you down.”

Catholic leaders ‘still don’t get it,’ he says

Lasch retired in 2004 and lives in the Cedar Crest Retirement Village in Pequannock. He said his relationship with the Church is “OK” and that he has a strong rapport with current Paterson Diocese Bishop Kevin Sweeney. But the former pastor did not hold back about Catholic leadership in general and what he sees as a failure to recognize and adequately address the legacy of clergy abuse in America.

He continues to conduct funerals and publicly advocate for abuse victims. He also suffers from PTSD, he said, “mostly from dealing with the church.”

“I love the church. I didn’t walk out,” Lasch said. “But it was amazing, the silence of the priests. Some of my best friends, one of them said to me. ‘You know if you didn’t get involved with all this stuff, you wouldn’t be dealing with PTSD.’ They walked away. They just became silent. And the bishops … they still don’t get it.”

After years of criminal indictments and civil-court settlements, Lasch said the church is “fulfilling the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.”

“They are still not treating victims of abuse with the healing charity that they deserve,” he said. “I’m not happy with the overall response from the church. I feel they are still weaseling out of their responsibility.”

For Crane, it’s time to look forward.

“My days are numbered,” he said. “And it still goes on. Now it’s time for me to lay my sword down and let the mission of the Millstone Memorial speak for itself. That’s where I am at now, personally. Maybe my grandchildren will pick up the story 25 years from now if the memorial is still in place.”

Complete Article HERE!

Florida priest continued in active ministry for three years after sex abuse lawsuit filed

Father Leo Riley, 68, continued to serve as a priest for years after a 2020 sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against him and the Diocese of Venice, Florida.

By Daniel Payne

A Florida priest who was recently arrested on sex abuse charges was permitted to continue in active ministry for nearly three years after a civil sex abuse lawsuit was filed against him and the diocese in which he serves.

Father Leo Riley, 68, continued to serve as a priest for years after a 2020 sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against him and the Diocese of Venice, Florida.

The matter came to the forefront this week after Riley was arrested on several sex abuse charges dating back to his time serving as a priest in Iowa decades ago.

The Charlotte County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that deputies arrested Riley in Port Charlotte on April 24 “on multiple counts of capital sexual battery stemming from his past work as a priest in Iowa.” He was ordained in Iowa in 1982 and served there until 2005.

The civil lawsuit in Florida was filed in July 2020 with the 12th Judicial Circuit Court. It named Riley, the Diocese of Venice, and St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Port Charlotte as defendants, along with Alan Klispie, a music teacher at the parish school. The suit alleges that both Klispie and Riley committed various forms of abuse against the plaintiff for years.

Venice Bishop Frank Dewane told members of the San Antonio Parish in Port Charlotte on Saturday — where Riley was previously pastor — that there is “a pending civil lawsuit of 2020 against Father Riley here in Florida which upon its receipt was reported to the state attorney of Charlotte County.”

“At the time the civil lawsuit was received, the factual allegations therein were inaccurate and contradictory,” Dewane wrote.

“The plaintiff has since changed his allegations and the litigation is still pending,” the bishop wrote in the letter.

The diocese said the letter was also being distributed “at all parishes where Father Riley has been previously assigned in the Diocese of Venice.”

The bishop in the letter urged “anyone who believes that he or she has been the victim of sexual misconduct by someone serving in ministry for the Diocese of Venice” to contact law enforcement as well as the diocese itself.

Asked if Riley was placed on leave following the 2020 suit, diocesan spokeswoman Karen Schwarz told CNA on Saturday: “Regarding the civil lawsuit of 2020, it is my understanding that Father Riley was not placed on administrative leave at that time, due to the facts of the allegations being inaccurate and contradictory.”

The diocese’s website shows Riley still in active ministry, working as pastor at San Antonio Catholic Church, at least as late as 2022, two years after the suit was filed. The parish is home to St. Charles Borromeo School, a pre-K through eighth grade Catholic school.

Damian Mallard, a Florida attorney who is representing the plaintiff in the 2020 lawsuit, told CNA on Friday that the diocese was aware of the suit when it was filed. “We served them with the lawsuit back then,” he said.

Asked if there had been any communication from the diocese at the time of the filing, Mallard said: “Diocesan lawyers responded to my lawsuit. But there was nothing concerning taking Riley out of his job.”

Mallard confirmed that the suit is still pending. “Riley won’t sit for a deposition because his lawyers demand that I tell them every victim that I’ve found,” he said, “and I said no.”

Several courts have ruled in Mallard’s favor on the matter of detailing the identities of the alleged victims, he told CNA.

The lawsuit is seeking “damages for my client for what he’s been through,” Mallard told CNA.

“His life has been destroyed,” the lawyer said. The amount of the damages is “up to a jury to decide,” he added.

Priest arrested this week on sex abuse charges

Dewane wrote the letter this week partly in response to Riley’s arrest by Florida law enforcement earlier in the week.

In their press release, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office said Florida law enforcement officers had worked with the Dubuque, Iowa, Police Department in making the arrest. The Dubuque police “had developed probable cause for five counts of capital sexual battery within their jurisdiction,” the sheriff’s office said.

Riley, who previously served in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, has been on administrative leave in the Venice Diocese since May 2023 when several abuse allegations from his time in the Iowa archdiocese were made against him.

Riley’s arrest this week comes after at least a decade of abuse allegations made against the priest.

In a letter released on Friday, Dubuque Archbishop Thomas Zinkula said the “first notice of any allegation of abuse by Father Riley was made in December of 2014.”

“The claim related to the time period of 1985, when Father Riley would have been in Dubuque,” the archbishop wrote. “Particulars of the allegation were received in February of 2015.”

The archbishop noted that Riley was incardinated into the Diocese of Venice by this time, having been granted that request in 2005 to be near his parents.

The Dubuque Archdiocese “notified the Diocese of Venice, Florida, and Father Riley was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation,” the archbishop said.

“The investigation concluded that the best information available at the time did not support a reasonable belief that the allegation was true,” Zinkula wrote. Law enforcement, meanwhile, “chose not to conduct an investigation into the allegation because the applicable statute of limitations at that time had expired.”

Two new allegations were subsequently made against Riley in May of last year, both of them once again stemming from alleged misconduct in Dubuque in the mid-1980s. Upon receiving the allegations, the archdiocese “began an internal investigation into the new allegations, which remains open pending the outcome of the criminal charges.”

It is unclear whether these two allegations against Riley formed the basis of this week’s arrest. The Dubuque police department was unable to provide a copy of the warrant on Friday as it was still listed as active in that jurisdiction.

On Thursday, meanwhile, the Venice Diocese said in a statement that when the latest allegations were made public last year, DeWane “immediately placed Father Riley on administrative leave, pending the investigation that was to be conducted by the Archdiocese of Dubuque.”

Diocesan spokeswoman Karen Schwarz confirmed to CNA on Friday that Riley “was put on administrative leave in May of 2023 and has not been involved in ministry since then.”

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said in announcing Riley’s arrest that “if the accusations are true, then we have had a sexual predator living among us in Charlotte County that was trusted by far too many people simply because of his position.”

“It is likely that there are more victims, and I encourage them to come forward so that we can make sure this type of heinous thing does not happen to anyone else here,” the sheriff said.

Complete Article HERE!

New York appeals court rules insurer doesn’t have to pay out for Archdiocese of New York abuse claims

The exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is seen in a nighttime file photo. A New York state appeals court ruled unanimously April 23, 2024, in favor of insurers against the New York Archdiocese, arguing they should not be held liable for the church’s systemic failures on abuse.


A New York state appeals court has found that an insurer for the Archdiocese of New York is not required to cover costs for settling hundreds of sex abuse claims — a ruling the archdiocese has called “extremely disappointing” and “wrongly decided.”

On April 23, five justices of the First Judicial Department of the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division unanimously overturned a December 2023 order from a lower court that would have compelled a group of Chubb insurance entities — who had issued more than 30 liability policies to the archdiocese and several of its parishes, schools and entities between 1956 and 2003 — to pay out money for more than 1,500 abuse cases.

Those claims against the archdiocese were brought under the state’s Child Victims Act of 2019 and Adult Survivors Act of 2022, both of which opened the door to hundreds of previously time-barred suits.

According to court documents, some of the approximately 1,500 cases dated “as far back as the 1930s” and alleged childhood sexual abuse “by various individuals including (archdiocesan) clergy and religious, clergy from religious orders and other dioceses, and lay people such as foster families, childcare staff, parish volunteers, and teachers and other school staff.”

The documents said that “about 86%” of the cases fell under policies the archdiocese had purchased from Chubb, named in the suit as Century Indemnity Company.

The appellate court said the lower court “should not have dismissed the complaint on the finding that it only raised bare legal conclusions.

“The complaint adequately sets forth factual bases for the declaratory judgments it seeks,” the justices said. “The complaint alleges that issues surrounding child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese ‘reached the Church’s highest levels’ and that ‘senior (church) officials had known for decades that members of the clergy had and were committing sexual abuse,’ as reflected in newly public sources.”

Chubb holds that the archdiocese had known about the abuse and had failed to act accordingly — a tactic the company said had violated the state’s “known loss doctrine,” by which an insured party cannot secure insurance to cover a loss that is known prior to the date the policy takes effect.

However, the principle does not apply in cases where the insured is aware of a risk of loss, and the appellate court dismissed that aspect of Chubb’s argument as “not viable.”

“If allowed to stand, the decision will permit insurance companies to evade the contractual obligations of the policies they issued,” Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the archdiocese, told OSV News in an April 23 statement.

Zwilling indicated the appellate court’s decision “demands appeal” to New York’s highest court, but said the Archdiocese would “consider and determine what is the best way to further policyholders and plaintiffs interests.”

“To suggest, as the court does in today’s decision, that Chubb can avoid paying claims to victim-survivors of sexual abuse simply by claiming that the abuse was ‘expected or intended’ without offering any proof, opens the door to years of litigation and courtroom battles and closes the door on prompt and just resolution to meritorious claims,” he said.

Zwilling added that Chubb was “demonstrating that they would rather pay attorneys to litigate against the Archdiocese of New York and others to whom it issued policies rather than settle legitimate claims made by the victim-survivors of abuse.

“It is a cold, cynical, calculating decision by Chubb which is clearly more interested in protecting its bottom line than in honoring the policies they issued,” he said. “These bullying legal tactics violate the spirit of the Child Victims Act and the intention of the legislators who passed it, and defy the guidance given to all insurance companies by the Department of Financial Services of the State of New York to settle these cases expeditiously.”

In a statement emailed to OSV News, Chubb said the ruling meant that the archdiocese “must now disclose what it knew and when it knew about child abuse perpetrated by priests and employees.

“That disclosure is critical to determining whether the (archdiocese’s) knowledge and cover-up precludes coverage,” said the statement, which also noted that as the litigation continues, “there is nothing to prevent the Archdiocese from paying claims to victims of horrific sexual abuse.

“The (archdiocese) has substantial financial resources to pay just compensation to victims today and Chubb continues to fund the legal defense of the Archdiocese under a reservation of rights,” said Chubb in its statement. “The principal obstacle to victims receiving compensation is the Archdiocese itself.”

In recent years, insurance coverage has become a critical factor in diocesan bankruptcies and settlements. Marie Reilly, a professor at Penn State Law and an expert in bankruptcy and commercial law, previously told OSV News that insurers have significantly restricted the terms of their general comprehensive liability policies, excluding coverage for incidents that took place decades earlier and challenging current claims as well.

“Insurers in the last five to 10 years have really been raising a lot of legal defenses, and uncertainty about their liability on these policies has made it much more complicated to settle cases,” said Reilly, who catalogs and studies U.S. Catholic diocesan bankruptcies in depth.

In 2021, Chubb agreed to pay $800 million towards a $2.7 billion fund that settled some 82,500 claims against the Boy Scouts of America.

This past February, a Chubb insurer, Century Indemnity Company, filed suit against the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, and other entities, asserting it has no obligation to cover hundreds of claims of child sexual abuse brought against the defendants.

Complete Article HERE!

Nunavut court frees defrocked Oblate priest on bail

— Eric Dejaeger has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals

Former Nunavut priest Eric Dejaeger during his trial in Iqaluit.

By Kathleen Martens

A defrocked priest convicted of sexually abusing children in Nunavut will be flown to Kingston, Ont., to live in a federal half-way house after being released on bail.

Ontario lawyer Scott Cowan said Eric Dejaeger, 77, will be freed in Iqaluit on conditions imposed by justice of the peace Amanda Soper on Tuesday.

Cowan said Dejaeger is both a federal parolee and “Iqaluit detainee” – a situation that created an ideal situation for bail.

“The pitch made by me was, ‘Look, give him bail on the new charges and…harken to the fact that the life he’ll be going back to is one of constant supervision’,” Cowan said Wednesday.

“In this circumstance, his residential and supervisory status as a federal parolee meant that bail was a logical thing to do.”

An early photo of Eric Dejaeger when he was a Catholic priest in Nunavut.

Dejaeger will be living at the Henry Traill Community Correctional Centre in Kingston, a federal facility southwest of Toronto with 24-hour supervision, Cowan added.

“It’s basically part of a penitentiary; it’s on the grounds of (medium-security Collins Bay) penitentiary. So, the idea that he’s a free man would be a misstatement.”

The former priest with the Missionary Order of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is permitted to leave the facility for medical appointments and grocery shopping during the day without an escort, the lawyer said.

Dejaeger was serving a 19-year sentence for 32 sex crimes against Inuit children and adults in Igloolik, Nunavut when he was released on parole to the halfway house in June 2022, parole documents obtained by APTN News show.

He was freed from prison early under “statutory release” – a law enacted by Parliament that kicks in after an offender has served two-thirds of a “fixed-length” sentence – to the supervision of a parole officer.

Eric Dejaeger
Defrocked priest Eric Dejaeger has been released on bail to live in a halfway house in Kingston, Ont.

Dejaeger was living in the Henry Traill when he was arrested and charged with eight additional counts of child sexual abuse from his time as a Catholic missionary in Igloolik, Nunavut between 1978 and 1982.

Cowan said he was appointed by a court to represent Dejaeger, who was born in Belgium and became a Canadian citizen in 1977.

Dejaeger was first arrested in 2011 on immigration charges in Belgium and deported to Canada to face the sexual abuse charges laid in 1995.

He has been convicted of dozens of sexual offences in Canada, involving children, adults and animals in Nunavut and Alberta.

His victims in Alberta, where he was studying at the Newman Theological College in Edmonton in the 1970s, were a nine-year-old Indigenous boy from Grand Cache, Alta., and an eight-year-old boy and his six-year-old sister from Edmonton.

Dejaeger pleaded guilty to those crimes in 2015 and was sentenced to five years in prison, concurrent to his sentence for the Igloolik crimes.

He is no longer a priest but remains a member of the Oblates, confirmed Rev. Ken Thorson of OMI-Lacombe in Ottawa.

“While I respect the judicial process, I wish to apologize to anyone who has been harmed by Eric Dejaeger or by any Oblate,” Thorson said in an email to APTN.

“The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, OMI Lacombe Canada, did not pay for his bail or any of his legal costs. In fact I only learned of this (bail) news yesterday through the media.”

Thorson said it was common among religious communities like the Oblates to retain offensive members.

“This allows us to ensure appropriate monitoring and offer the support needed to reduce the possibility of recidivism,” Thorson said. “Putting men out on the street would transfer the financial and monitoring burden to society. We believe our approach is part of our congregational safeguarding commitment to the larger community.”

Complete Article HERE!

US archdiocese must submit clergy-abuse documents to police

— In criminal investigation, New Orleans judge demands paper trail from archbishop Gregory Aymond all the way to the Vatican

Investigators could learn what church officials in Rome knew of the abuse in New Orleans.


The criminal investigation into child sexual abuse in New Orleans’ Roman Catholic archdiocese has entered a major new phase, after a judge ordered the church to turn over records to Louisiana state police showing how it responded to abuse allegations over the last several decades.

The order signed on Monday seeks files that would identify every priest and deacon accused of abusing children while working in the US’s second-oldest archdiocese; when those complaints were first made; and whether the church turned those cases over to police, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

Significantly, police are also demanding copies of all communications among New Orleans’ current archbishop, Gregory Aymond, his aides and their superiors at the Vatican, those sources said.

Asked for comment on Wednesday, an archdiocese spokesperson said: “As always, the archdiocese will continue to cooperate in all law enforcement investigations.”

It appears to be the first time that authorities investigating the New Orleans archdiocese’s role in the decades-old, worldwide Catholic clerical child abuse scandal have sought the full set of abuse-related documents in the local church’s possession.

In the rare cases where New Orleans-area clergymen have been convicted of – or even prosecuted for – child rape or molestation, investigators have generally focused on documents related to the individual defendants and their direct superiors.

Now, by essentially seeking the entire paper trail generated by the scandal, investigators could also learn what top church officials in Rome knew of the breadth of abuse at the local level in New Orleans.

It also introduces the possibility that authorities could one day produce a watershed report about the extent of Catholic clergy abuse in New Orleans as detailed as those published by prosecutors in states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Louisiana state police investigators sought Monday’s order from Judge Juana Lombard of New Orleans criminal court after reviewing documents, witness statements and other materials uncovered as part of a pending rape case they are helping local prosecutors pursue against retired priest Lawrence Hecker, the sources added.

Hecker was first confronted about rape allegations by the late archbishop Philip Hannan in 1988. He later admitted to past abuse to the Guardian and CBS affiliate WWL Louisiana while saying that Hannan had accepted his assurances that he wouldn’t do it again and allowed him to remain in ministry.

Hecker was later clinically diagnosed as a pedophile, according to secret church records obtained by the Guardian and WWL – and he admitted to church leaders in a 1999 written statement that he had molested or sexually harassed at least seven children. However, once again, the church allowed Hecker to remain in ministry, and he retired with full benefits in 2002.

Records obtained by the news outlets indicate the archdiocese reported a single allegation of sexual abuse against Hecker to the New Orleans police department in 2002, even though the alleged crime unfolded in another state, outside the agency’s jurisdiction.

The archdiocese did not notify the public that Hecker was a suspected abuser until it released a list of more than 50 credibly accused clergy in 2018.

That disclosure – which has since grown to include more than 70 names – didn’t mention the fact that Hecker had already admitted several crimes. And clerical abuse survivors as well as their advocates have long argued that the list omits dozens of clergymen who should be included.

Furthermore, the church didn’t cancel Hecker’s benefits until after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2020.

In a sworn statement provided on Monday to Lombard, state troopers said their investigation into Hecker and the archdiocese’s management of him had led them to suspect the church knew of widespread abuse but failed to properly report it.

Some of that abuse appears to have involved clergymen who had committed acts of child abuse that remain prosecutable.

The warrant signed Monday, though, stops short of naming any archdiocesan bureaucrats who may be under criminal investigation for covering up child rape and other abuse by rank-and-file clergymen under the command of Aymond, New Orleans’ archbishop since 2009.

Hecker’s case is unresolved. The 92-year-old priest has been incarcerated for eight months on charges including rape and kidnapping.

A panel of psychiatrists recently issued a report that described Hecker to be mentally incompetent to stand trial at the moment, though a judge has not immediately accepted or rejected that finding.

Nonetheless, state troopers obtained Monday’s warrant after Jason Williams, the New Orleans district attorney, said his office was committed to exploring the possibility of criminal charges against anyone who had a hand in delaying the prosecution against Hecker or any other clergy suspected of abuse.

Hecker’s alleged rape victim reported his allegations to his high school immediately in 1975 and received psychiatric treatment from the school, but the allegations were never reported to police, according to his attorney. He reported the allegations directly to the FBI in June 2022.

Earlier that year, the FBI in New Orleans launched a broad investigation into possible violations of federal law by the local archdiocese’s clergy who took children across state lines to have sex.

Federal prosecutors have so far not filed any charges in connection with that investigation. But state police troopers assisting the FBI in that investigation ultimately decided to pursue a state-level case against Hecker individually.

An attorney for the victim in the prosecution pending against Hecker on Wednesday said his client “was proud and humbled by the fact that his individual case led to the issuance of this wide-ranging search warrant”.

“It’s about time that those at the archdiocese who enabled Hecker and others like him are held accountable,” the victim’s lawyer, Richard Trahant, said.

Complete Article HERE!