NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Peter Modica and Neil Carr weren’t the only people accused of abuse at Jesuit High School in the 1970s. FOX 8 has also obtained documents involving state and local lawsuits against former Jesuit priest Donald Dickerson.
“The allegations involved the victim being sexually assaulted in a classroom at Jesuit High School,” said Houston attorney Feleshia Peavy.
Dickerson was the subject of a lawsuit settled in Orleans Parish in 2009 involving allegations that he sexually assaulted an eighth-grade boy.
“He fit right in and found an unsuspecting victim,” said Peavy.
Peavy handled that settlement. Then, three years later, she represented new victims who claimed Dickerson sexually assaulted them in Shreveport.
“The allegations in Shreveport surfaced several years later and involved multiple victims, not in a classroom, but in a church he was assigned to,” said Peavy.
That church was St. John Berchmans. Peavy said Dickerson found a new way to gain the confidence of at least one boy.
“In Shreveport it was a different matter. He made his way into the family, approached the family, gained their confidence,” said Peavy.
Peavy would not divulge the exact amounts but said the settlements in both cases should have been large enough to get the attention of the Jesuit order and change the practice of shipping problem priests to new locations.
“When you understand that someone has proclivities and conducts themselves as a predator, you don’t shuttle them from assignment to assignment,” said Peavy.
In the Jesuit High School case, the Archdiocese of New Orleans referred a request for comment to the school.
“You gotta understand the organizational structure of the Catholic Church. Dickerson was signed up as a Jesuit,” said Peavy.
Peavy says the only way to change a system that often protects abusive priests is to get cases into criminal courts.
“Prosecutions are going to be the catalysts to help the church recognize this is serious,” said Peavy.
And she’s hoping that Louisiana district attorneys and attorneys general step in like they’ve done in Pennsylvania and several other states to prevent more damage to children.
“It is horrific in most cases. Very severe, very traumatic,” said Peavy.
We reached out to Jesuit High school, and the Jesuit Order for comment on this story, but have not heard back.