NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A Metairie man has come forward about the abuse he says he faced at the hands of a prominent deceased monsignor, 42 years ago.
George Bertucci received a large settlement from the Archdiocese of New Orleans related to his accusations against Henry Bezou, who he says raped him in 1977. Bertucci said the abuse started at St. Francis Xavier Church in Metairie on his very first day as a 9-year-old altar boy.
“There were other altar boys who served mass, and one of them tapped me on the shoulder, and said ‘Monsignor Bezou wants to talk to you,’” Bertucci recalled.
Bertucci said he did what the older boys told him to do, and went into the church sacristy after mass. There, he said he witnessed other boys touching themselves inappropriately in the presence of Bezou.
“After the other boys did it, I thought I needed to do it to become a man,” Bertucci said.
He then said Bezou -- a longtime priest at Saint Francis Xavier and former superintendent of Archdiocese schools -- told the other boys to leave.
“I’m thinking I’m going to get spanked, but he raped me," Bertucci said. “After it happened, I ran out of the church crying. I felt abandoned and ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone, my mother was a devout Catholic, she was a Eucharistic minister.”
In spite of the abuse, Bertucci said he continued being an altar boy, but he said he only served when he knew the monsignor wouldn’t be conducting mass.
“My mother was proud of me being an altar boy,” Bertucci said.
After the rape, Bertucci said he plummeted into years of academic failure, and worse.
“In sixth grade, I didn’t want to be there. And I did anything I could to get expelled, so I made straight F’s," Bertucci said. “I did attempt suicide when I was 15.”
Bertucci said he’s struggled with jobs and hopes his settlement will help ease his financial strain. Still. His attorney Roger Stetter said no sum would be enough to erase the pain Bezou inflicted on his client.
“Just about any settlement will be insufficient, there’s not enough money in the world,” Stetter said.
Even so, Bertucci said he is pleased with the outcome of the suit.
“The church settling my case has given me relief," he said. “I feel my soul has another chance.”
But, what he said he would like to see most are continued reforms and more criminal prosecutions.
“It’s going to take the Department of Justice, and the FBI to enforce and save these children,” he said.
Bertucci said he was threatened and silenced for decades, but decided to speak up after hearing others do the same. The Archdiocese confirmed it reached a settlement with Bertucci to provide counseling, out of ‘pastoral concern’.
While many victims choose to hide their identities, Bertucci decided to reveal his, in hopes of giving others the strength to report their abuse -- just as others did for him.
“What was done to me was the worst thing that could be done to me, how could anything happen to me that was worse than that? If I prevent one more child from being molested, that’s what matters,” he said.
Bezou died in 1989 at the age of 76. His name is not on the list of 57 abusive clergy released by the Archdiocese last year.
This afternoon, the Archdiocese released the following statement: