NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The Archdiocese of New Orleans removed a deacon from ministry Monday following a report of abuse. V.M. Wheeler has been assigned to St. Francis Xavier in Metairie since his ordination in 2018. Wheeler is also a partner at New Orleans law firm, Chaffe McCall LLP.
The Archdiocese says the allegation of abuse happened 20 years ago, before Wheeler became a deacon. The Archdiocese says it received the report of abuse within the last week.
We spoke with the Survivors Network of those Abuse by Priests, or SNAP, about the claim.
"I'm very surprised to hear because part and parcel of what the Archdiocese and not just this one but all of them do is they protect and they enable abusers," said Kevin Bourgeois with SNAP New Orleans.
The Archdiocese says Wheeler had no pastoral assignments prior to his assignment at St. Francis Xavier.
In a statement, Chaffe McCall, LLP said, “The firm is aware of the recent action taken by Archbishop Aymond concerning V.M. Wheeler. We fully support the right of all victims of sexual abuse to speak out and be heard. Mr. Wheeler has been employed at Chaffe McCall since 2016. We take this matter very seriously and are taking appropriate action. As this is a confidential personnel matter, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
The Archdiocese says it pledges its full cooperation into the investigation and ask anyone with additional information or an allegation of abuse to contact the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.
“The average age of someone who was sexually abused comes to terms with it and actually discloses it to someone is age 52, so, this happened 20 years ago, it’s likely that individual is younger than the median age for a survivor to come forward, that’s hopeful, very, very hopeful and I hope that speaks volumes to people who are still holding on to that secret and they don’t need to anymore because there are resources for help,” said Bourgeois.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office says it has been in contact with the Archdiocese and will investigate any allegations that come to their office. The Department encourages anyone who has been victimized or has any information regarding possible criminal activity to contact the JPSO Investigations Bureau at 504-364-5300.
We tried to contact Wheeler for comment but we’re unable to reach him.