New Orleans joins Chicago call for new clergy abuse oversight body

Church sex abuse oversight

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - With more than a dozen mediations on tap here in New Orleans, over old abuse allegations, a Chicago cardinal is calling for the creation of a new national body to investigate clergy abuse across the country.

But a local attorney, who has been active in dozens of abuse cases, says such an effort may fall short

Abuse victims say the scars never go away.

"As you get older it comes and haunts you day after day," said one alleged victim.

As the Archdiocese of New Orleans pays out thousands of dollars worth of settlements, it is by no means alone.

With abuse scandals rocking dioceses across the country, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich is now calling for the creation of a new national body to investigate misconduct allegations. It is similar to a call made two months ago, by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who said the church should, “Assemble a lay commission to oversee our commitment to greater accountability as bishops. There are laity with expertise in the areas of investigation, law enforcement and psychology who will be an essential part of this plan for independent review.”

But an attorney active in abuse cases says such a commission was attempted in Boston and came up short.

“That has been tried, but failed,” said attorney Roger Stetter.

Cupich will push to have the new national investigative body adopted when the U.S. Bishops meet in November. He says it’s time for bishops to cede their authority and have someone else come in, and investigate.

“His thesis is that bishops must be held accountable. The problem is the only person who a bishop reports to, or can tell a bishop what to do, is the Pope,” said stetter.

He says accusers should report to civil authorities.

“If they find that a minister has been accused they’re mandated by law to report that to authorities,” said Stetter.

For his part, Aymond says new Catholic policy calls for the archdiocese to go to police, which wasn’t the case decades ago.

"That's part of what we do, we cooperate with authorities," said Aymond.

Five months ago, former deacon George Brignac was found to be active in lay ministry at St. Mary Magdalen, and allegedly had contact with altar boys, in spite of the fact he was tried three times for abuse allegations, and was responsible for the payout of a $500,000 settlement.

Stetter says given the church’s track record, the best option would be for accusers to go to the police.

Now, the archbishop stands by his call for a lay commission to oversee allegations of clergy abuse, which he says will be addressed at the U.S. Bishop’s meeting next month. The archdiocese is also working to compile a list of abusive clergy, which the archbishop says will come out sooner rather than later.

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