Is net finally closing on US priest who allegedly abused ‘countless’ children?

FBI agents have questioned Lawrence Hecker, 91, who worked as a Catholic priest in New Orleans until 2002 despite the archdiocese being aware of molestation accusation since 1988

Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who published a list of priests subject to credible allegations of sexually abusing children in 2018, conducts the procession to lead an Easter Mass in St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans in April 2020.

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In arguably the clearest sign yet that he is under active criminal investigation, a retired Catholic priest from New Orleans who has been publicly accused of molesting “countless” children but never charged has acknowledged that the FBI recently questioned him.

Lawrence Hecker, 91, declined to elaborate on exactly when FBI agents met with him or what they asked him as they reportedly lead an investigation into whether clerics serving a Louisiana region that is home to nearly half a million Catholics took children across state lines to abuse them. But, in a brief conversation with the Guardian, Hecker admitted that FBI agents had spoken with him.

“I told them I needed to speak to my attorney, and that’s where we left it,” Hecker said, apparently indicating he invoked his constitutional rights to be represented by a lawyer when interrogated and to otherwise remain silent during the talk with agents.

Hecker’s lawyer, Eugene Redmann, confirmed that the FBI at least interacted with his client at some point last week but would not comment beyond that.

“I just don’t have enough information, frankly, and additionally it was a brief encounter as opposed to any sort of in-depth questioning,” Redmann said of his client’s exchange with the FBI, which let Hecker go at the end of the meeting without arresting him.

An FBI spokesperson said the agency had no comment about Hecker, citing a US justice department policy against confirming or denying the existence of any investigation.

While Hecker’s name may not be known nationwide, in New Orleans, he is perhaps the most notorious still-living priest on a list of clerics who have worked in that area over the decades and were subject to credible allegations of using their status as a priest or deacon to sexually exploit and molest children.

Lawrence Hecker, retired New Orleans Catholic priest accused of abusing ‘countless’ children.
Lawrence Hecker, retired New Orleans Catholic priest accused of abusing ‘countless’ children.

The roster has swelled from more than 50 names to nearly 80 since the city’s archbishop, Gregory Aymond, first released the list in 2018 as local Catholic leaders continued trying to manage the fallout of the worldwide church’s decades-old clergy molestation crisis.

Much of what is known about the allegations against Hecker came in the form of a lawsuit filed after that roster of accused clergy abusers was published. Lawyers for the plaintiff in that case allege that Hecker abused their client in 1968 while the accuser was a boy studying at a Catholic school in a New Orleans suburb, portraying it as just one act of molestation inflicted on a minor by “a serial pedophile who abused countless children”.

The lawsuit in question alleges that Hecker’s supervisors knew he had committed crimes for which he can still be punished because there is no deadline by which he needs to be charged for them, something that legally is known as a statute of limitation.

But, the lawsuit maintained, Hecker’s supervisors did not immediately report him to law enforcement authorities, saying the handling of his case was no different from those at the heart of the scandal that engulfed Boston’s Catholic archdiocese in 2002 and prompted the worldwide church to implement transparency policies as well as other reforms.

Hecker, in court filings, later denied the plaintiff’s claims.

Nonetheless, an attorney for New Orleans’ archdiocese eventually disclosed in open court that church officials first learned Hecker was accused of molestation in 1988 and that they later paid out at least four civil financial settlements in cases involving various accusations against him. Yet, despite abuse claims that were worth paying to settle, Hecker was allowed to work in the archdiocese until he retired in 2002.

Transparency policies that US bishops voted to enact that year should have resulted in Hecker being publicly identified as a strongly suspected child molester. But another 16 years passed before the archdiocese publicly acknowledged its suspicion that Hecker was an abuser.

Meanwhile, until the summer of 2020, Hecker continued receiving retirement benefits that included a pension, insurance coverage and – at least for a time – a church-paid apartment, which outraged victim advocacy groups who have long yearned to see him and other alleged but unpunished clergy abusers endure being criminally prosecuted.

Despite the church claiming it was morally obliged to provide such benefits regardless of whether the recipients were accused of misconduct, those perks were discontinued by a federal judge overseeing the local archdiocese’s request for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, which the church argued it needed in the face of mounting abuse lawsuits and financial strains associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of Snap, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including Richard Windmann, left, and John Gianoli, right, hold signs during a conference in front of the New Orleans Saints training facility in Metairie, Louisiana, in 2020.
Members of Snap, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including Richard Windmann, left, and John Gianoli, right, hold signs during a conference in front of the New Orleans Saints training facility in Metairie, Louisiana, in 2020.

The bankruptcy filing – still pending – indefinitely halted the lawsuits entangling Hecker and other accused clergy abusers, cases that were in general largely sealed off from public view at the request of church attorneys.

That bankruptcy-related pause in litigation didn’t prevent Hecker from sitting for a deposition in late December 2020 by the plaintiff whose lawsuit has revealed much of what is known about the church’s handling of allegations against him. And the plaintiff – who has long argued that Hecker is dangerous as long as he’s alive, no matter how old he is – requested that the contents of that potentially explosive deposition be unsealed so that the public had a full understanding of the case.

Nonetheless, after a closed-door hearing, the request to unseal the deposition was denied.

In early July, the Associated Press reported that the FBI had interviewed more than a dozen alleged victims of abusive clergy who had worked in New Orleans as agents opened an investigation into alleged sex abuse by church personnel there.

The AP reported that the investigation – which went back decades – was examining whether predator clerics could be prosecuted under the Mann Act, an anti-human trafficking law that for more than 100 years has prohibited taking anyone across state lines for illicit sex and has no statute of limitation.

The AP’s report noted that Hecker was one of the clerics that the FBI’s investigation was scrutinizing, having been accused of abusing children decades ago on out-of-state trips as well as misconduct ranging from fondling to rape.

Because of Hecker’s advanced age and how long criminal cases can take to prosecute in the US, many who track clerical abuse cases are uncertain whether he might ever face punishment. Multiple clerics who were unmasked as suspected abusers after the archbishop released his 2018 list have since died either without being tried or convicted, despite sometimes being under active investigation by authorities.

They include the accused serial child rapist and deacon George Brignac as well as priests named Michael Fraser and Brian Highfill.

Complete Article HERE!

Inuk man faces priest who allegedly abused him when he was a child

President of ‘Nunavut Tunngavik’ organization Aluki Kotierk (fifth right), Canadian politician and victim Steve Mapsalak (fourth right), daughter of a victim, Tanya Tungilikand (right) and fellow members of the Inuit delegation are welcomed by Father Vincent Gruber (left) at the ‘Oblats de Marie Immaculée’ (The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculte) religious congregation in Lyon, on Sept. 14.

An Inuk man who alleges he was sexually abused by a former Oblate priest in Nunavut when he was 13 years old says meeting the man face to face after nearly three decades was a relief.

Steve Mapsalak was part of a delegation led by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., a group representing Nunavut Inuit, that travelled to France last week to seek the extradition of Johannes Rivoire to Canada. The group met with French and Oblate officials, as well as with Rivoire himself.

Mapsalak, who was formerly mayor of Naujaat, Nvt., and served two terms as a member of the Nunavut legislature, said he initially had mixed feelings when he was approached to join the trip. He said he decided to face Rivoire as he believed it could be a healing experience.

“After I did and said what I needed to say to him, I felt a release inside me and I felt a lot better,” he said by phone from his home in Naujaat on Tuesday. “It’s helped me really very much.”

Inuk woman says she came forward to RCMP several times before charge laid against Father Johannes Rivoire

Mapsalak said he spoke to Rivoire, who is now 91 and lives in a care home in Lyon, in Inuktitut as he had spoken and understood the language when he lived in Nunavut.

“I told him I know that he knew exactly what he did to me when I was a child and when I was helpless.”

Mapsalak said Rivoire responded that he didn’t remember anything. He told the former priest he wanted an apology.

“That’s when I left the room, I couldn’t stand looking at him anymore.”

Mapsalak said the last time he saw Rivoire was at the airport in Winnipeg in 1993. He said Rivoire was leaving Canada following allegations that he had abused Inuit children.

“I didn’t get close to him but when he saw me I noticed that his face got really red,” he recalled.

Rivoire was an Oblate priest in Nunavut from the 1960s until 1993 when he returned to France. Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. alleges he abused up to 60 children during that time.

The allegations have never been heard in court and Rivoire has denied any wrongdoing.

A Canadian warrant was issued for Rivoire’s arrest in 1998, but criminal charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of four children were stayed in 2017.

Following a new complaint, Rivoire was charged in February with one count of indecent assault of a girl in Arviat and Whale Cove between 1974 and 1979. Canadian judicial authorities have sent an extradition request to France.

Although Canada and France share an extradition treaty, France does not traditionally extradite its citizens. During a meeting with the Inuit delegation, officials with the country’s Justice Ministry said extraditing a French national would violate a constitutional principle. The group said they do not agree that France is prohibited from extraditing its citizens.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate said they have repeatedly urged Rivoire to face the charges against him, but he has refused to return to Canada. As a result, Oblate leaders in France have said they have decided to dismiss Rivoire from their congregation.

Mapsalak said he still hopes to see Rivoire face justice in Canada.

Nadia Debbache, a French lawyer who is working with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the case, said she plans to file a complaint against the Oblates and pursue legal action for allegedly concealing a criminal.

“I am in the process of preparing this complaint so that all light may be shed on the behaviour of this congregation,” she wrote in an email.

Complete Article HERE!

Oblates dismiss Rivoire as retired priest denies abuse allegations at meeting with Inuit

Delegates surprised to learn retired priest would be at meeting with Oblates

Kilikvak Kabloona, the CEO of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., spoke to reporters after a meeting with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Lyon, France, on Wednesday.

By April Hudson

The delegates have been in France all week to call for the extradition of retired priest Johannes Rivoire, who has been charged in Canada with sexual assault dating back to his time in Nunavut in the 1960s and 1970s.

The meeting with Rivoire was one the delegation had sought, but hadn’t received any word about until they were nearly at their destination in Lyon, France.

Kilikvak Kabloona, the CEO of Nunavut Tunngavik, said delegates were emotional when they heard who would be at the meeting.

“I ask you to respect that this is a very difficult time for the survivors, and they might not be willing to speak with you at this time,” Kabloona told media before the meeting.

“It’s a very difficult situation. We did not have a lot of time to prepare … It’s short notice for such a significant meeting.”

A group of people crowd around a cluttered table.
Father Vincent Gruber, second from left, with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, met with Inuit delegates from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in France on Wednesday.

After the meeting, Kabloona said delegates left through a different entrance.

Rivoire appeared to acknowledge and remember some of the delegates, including Steve Mapsalak, Kabloona said, but denied all charges of abuse.

“He is refusing to travel to Canada to face justice because of his skin condition,” she said. Rivoire told APTN in July he has eczema all over his body.

Rivoire worked in many Nunavut communities in the 1960s and 1970s, but returned to France in the early 1990s before he could be tried on abuse charges.

While some charges against him were stayed in 2017, the RCMP confirmed in March that more charges have been laid and they had issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest.

Confronting Rivoire in person was ‘worth the whole trip’

After the meeting, Tanya Tungilik, who is among the delegates, recounted what it was like for her to see Rivoire in person.

“I just looked at him for about 10, 15 seconds just to take him all in, take this monster in. And then that’s when I started to speak. Well, more like yell at him about what he did to my father,” she said. “That I didn’t have a dad anymore because of him. That he ruined his life. And lots of other not nice words.”

Tungilik said she didn’t give him a chance to speak either.

“I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say nothing because I knew it was going to be all lies … I said what I wanted to say, what my dad always wanted to say.”

Tungilik said it was “liberating” and emotional to finally say it to his face.

“I went straight out the door, outside the back door and then I just cried the hardest. I haven’t cried that hard in a long time,” she said.

“Aluki [Kotierk] was holding me as I cried. Being able to do that was worth the whole trip. I don’t care if he doesn’t get extradited, if he dies. Saying what I needed to say to him meant everything to me.”

Oblates dismiss Rivoire from congregation

Father Vincent Gruber, who is with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said the Oblates will continue trying to convince Rivoire to return to Canada, but don’t have the power to force him to go.

Speaking in French, Gruber said the Oblates have finally decided to dismiss Rivoire from their congregation. It will take a couple months to complete the process.

“This was after several refusals from him to collaborate [and go to Canada],” he said.

A man speaks into a microphone on a street.
Father Vincent Gruber, with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, speaks to media following a meeting Wednesday with Inuit delegates from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Gruber said the Oblates expressed to delegates Wednesday that they believe it’s important Rivoire stand trial “as much for the presumed victims, the Inuit people, but also for all the missionaries from the Oblates and the Catholic Church.”

Gruber said the Oblates plan to reach out to the Vatican next to see if they can put more pressure on Rivoire to return.

He said it was very difficult to get Rivoire to meet with victims because of his health and other reasons, but he eventually agreed to do so.

“It was very important for us that Rivoire listens to the presumed victims, because it’s his duty … We are happy that we insisted and he said yes,” Gruber said.

“We know that it doesn’t solve everything — we have a lot of work to do together.”

France still working with Canada, says justice ministry

The meeting with the Oblates comes a day after delegates had what they described as a disappointing meeting with French officials.

In that meeting, which did not involve France’s justice minister, delegates said they heard that extraditing Rivoire to Canada would violate France’s constitution, and that he couldn’t be tried in France on Canadian charges because the statute of limitations for the charges would have run out under French law.

Inuit leaders met with French officials in Paris to press for the extradition of ex-priest, Johannes Rivoire, who is facing charges of abuse in Nunavut. CBC Nunavut’s Teresa Qiatsuq met afterwards with Nunavut Tunngavik’s Aluki Kotierk, who said she is frustrated at the lack of political will in France to send this man to justice.

In a statement Wednesday, the French Ministry of Justice said the practice of not extraditing nationals is part of France’s “constitutional tradition.”

However, the ministry added, France has been working closely with Canada and has requested “all the elements necessary to establish the facts and to interrupt the period of limitation of public action.”

The ministry said France is ready to respond to any request for mutual legal assistance from Canada.

Complete Article HERE!

We summarize the Rivoire case

— This priest accused of sexual violence on Inuit children in Canada

By lookcharms

Joannes Rivoire, 92, who resides in Lyon, is the subject of an extradition request filed in early August by Ottawa. He is accused of sexually assaulting young Inuit in the 1960s when he was on a mission in the Canadian Far North, charges he disputes.

Plaintiffs have been demanding justice for decades. The Franco-Canadian Johannes Rivoire, 92 years, is accused of sexual violence against young Inuit in Canada, while he was a priest there between 1960 and 1993. A delegation crossed the Atlantic on Monday 12 september to support Lyon’s request for the extradition of this man. Here is what we know about this case.

Priest accused of child sexual abuse

Joannes Rivoire is accused of multiple sexual assaults and rapes on Inuit children and adolescents in the Canadian Far North. This member of the community of Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), a congregation founded in 1816 and counting 3700 members, including was sent on a mission in 1960 and remained there for thirty-three years. Le priest, first accused of sexual assault against three minors, was the subject of a new complaint filed in September 2021 for facts dating back forty-seven years. He denies all the charges.

Arrest warrant and extradition request

Canada issued an arrest warrant in March 2022, followed in August by an extradition request after the latest complaint against the priest. A first arrest warrant had already been issued from 1998 to 2017, but Joannes Rivoire was never worried.

A meeting in Lyon between the priest and an Inuit delegation

After long negotiations, the priest, who now lives in an Ehpad in Lyon, agreed on Wednesday to meet a delegation of Inuit, including a declared victim and two children of Marius Tungilik, at the origin of the first complaint filed in 1993, and now deceased. The delegation was received at the headquarters of the congregation, on the heights of Lyon. Its members asked the priest to go to Canada but he refused, citing « skin problems »reported to After the meeting, Inuit representative Kilikvak Kabloona.

France refuses his extradition

The Inuit delegation stopped in Paris at the Ministry of Justice. But the request for extradition made by Canada came up against the refusal of the Chancellery, which recalled on Tuesday that, « in accordance with its constitutional tradition »France « does not extradite its nationals ».

The Chancellery added, however, that « France stands ready to respond to any request for mutual legal assistance made to it by Canada or, where appropriate, to act within the framework of a denunciation of the facts that may be made to it, subject nevertheless to examining the possible prescription of the facts ».

Relying on an opinion of the Council of State of November 24, 1994 which was requested by the Prime Minister on this question, the lawyer of the Inuit delegation, Nadia Debbache, however assured that it « there is no impediment of a constitutional nature » to refuse the extradition of a Frenchman, and that « this reason is not an admissible legal argument ».

The congregation also targeted by a complaint

A complaint for « criminal concealment » will be filed in Lyon against the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the delegation’s lawyer, Nadia Debbache, announced on Thursday. These missionaries have « provided aid and assistance to a person who was being prosecuted for criminal acts »she said.. Therefore, « all the light must be shed » on the protection he would have benefited from »in his flight » from Canada.

Father Vincent Gruber, provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, assures that his congregation in France was only informed in 2013 of these accusations, which he repeated on Wednesday during the meeting with the delegation. He has repeatedly denounced in the media a « inexcusable dysfunction »also saying he believes the word of the victims.

But, according to the words of the provincial reported by Nadia Debbache, only a report to « the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith » (an authority of the Vatican) would have been made in 2013. She would have given the only instruction to maintain Rivoire « under surveillance »without informing the judicial authorities, « due to age » of the priest.

It was not until 2018, when the priest was living in a retirement home in Strasbourg, that Vincent Gruber took him « reported to the prosecution » local.

The congregation begins dismissal proceedings

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate announced Wednesday in Lyon that they were starting a procedure for the exclusion of Father Johannes Rivoire. « We have started a canonical dismissal procedure (…) because Father Rivoire disobeyed our order to appear in court » Canadian, Father Vincent Gruber told the press.

Complete Article HERE!

For Inuit delegates in France, facing alleged abuser together helped heal a deep wound

After an emotional few days in France, Steve Mapsalak speaks to reporters about his experience meeting with Johannes Rivoire.

By April Hudson

When Steve Mapsalak left the meeting with his alleged abuser on Wednesday, he felt a weight lift from inside him.

Mapsalak, one of the Inuit delegates from Nunavut who went to France this week to press for the extradition of retired priest Johannes Rivoire, said Thursday the short-notice meeting with Rivoire brought memories flooding back to him.

It also gave him an opportunity to tell Rivoire face-to-face about the pain he and other delegates have gone through.

“It is still painful to have the memory when I see the building, the room [where the abuse happened]. And yet, when I was able to speak to him and share how deeply he had hurt us, I could feel that inside, the deep hurt I have carried for so long, some of it is lifted,” Mapsalak said in Inuktitut Thursday.

Aluki Kotierk, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., translated Mapsalak’s words into English for a crowd of reporters.

“I will be returning to Canada, my community, a little bit lighter, to be back with my children,” Mapsalak said.

He said he still feels Rivoire needs to be returned to Canada to face trial.

Steve Mapsalak, left, Tanya Tungilik and Jesse Tungilik spoke to reporters in Lyon, France, on Thursday about their meeting with Johannes Rivoire.

Tanya Tungilik, whose father Marius Tungilik had accused Rivoire of sexual abuse, said it was “liberating” to finally tell Rivoire the things she has wanted to say for so long.

She left the room as soon as she finished speaking to him, and wept. With those tears, weight lifted from her as well, she said.

“Just the relief, and the anger and everything — I let it all out. Cried my hardest,” she said. “Saying what I needed to say to him meant everything to me.”

Nunavut Tunngavik — the group that sent the delegation to France — has said it has a plane ticket to Canada ready for Rivoire if he chooses to return voluntarily. Rivoire has repeatedly said he has no intention of coming back to Canada and that he denies the charges of abusing Inuit children in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Provincial House of the Oblates in Lyon, France.

Delegates met with Rivoire and other members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate on Wednesday in Lyon, France.

“Personally, I felt a great burden going into the room with Rivoire, wanting to articulate in a clear and persuasive manner how much it would mean for all of us if he would just get on the plane,” said Kotierk.

“I did share with him that we have an airplane ticket for him to get on the plane on Friday with us and that we deserve the truth and he needs to face justice.”

While France’s Justice Ministry said Wednesday it was ready to respond to any request from Canada for “mutual legal assistance” in regard to Rivoire, Canada’s justice department has yet to hear from France.

Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti said Thursday the Department of Justice “has not received any formal response from the French government.”

Canada has made a request to France to extradite Rivoire on charges of sexual abuse, though France has said it has a longstanding “constitutional tradition” of not extraditing nationals.

Complete Article HERE!