Gretna councilman says he was a child victim of clergy abuse decades ago

Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 1:18 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE (WVUE) - A Gretna City Councilman testified before a legislative committee that a priest abused him decades ago. Now, he and other survivors of child sexual abuse are asking state lawmakers to pass a bill that would give victims more time to come forward with a claim against their abuser in civil court.

“I am a victim of clergy abuse as well,” said Gretna council member Jackie Berthelot Monday as he spoke before Louisiana lawmakers. He says it started in the 1960′s when he was a 4th grade altar boy at St. Joseph’s School in Gretna.

“Little did I know I was being reeled in by a pedophile who, I think when a lot of this comes to light, will be seen as one of the worst pedophiles maybe this country has ever seen,” said Berthelot.

Other sexual abuse survivors also testified before the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure in support of the house bill State Representative Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, filed.

If passed, it would give victims until their 53rd birthday to file a claim in civil court against their abuser. Right now, they have to do so by the time they reach 28.

Berthelot, now 66, says it took him 50 years to admit to anyone what had happened to him as a child. Berthelot testified he reached out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans for help.

“I approached the Archdiocese of New Orleans about some therapy, I really didn’t get much back from them, so, I approached two Baptist ministers that have churches in Gretna that are now counseling me and helping me figure this out,” Berthelot said.

The bill will now move forward in the legislature. The only opposition to it came from the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. Their representative did not speak before lawmakers.

We reached out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans about Berthelot’s claims but the church replied “no comment.”

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