Lawrence Hecker accuser speaks out after indictment of 92-year-old former New Orleans priest

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 9:20 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An accuser spoke to Fox 8 Tuesday (Sept. 19) for the first time since the indictment of former New Orleans priest Lawrence Hecker. The man said Hecker, now 92, sexually abused him decades ago.

Aaron Hebert was a 13-year-old athlete back in 1968 who attended St. Joseph’s School in Gretna.

In a lawsuit, Hebert said during his time at the school Father Lawrence Hecker took him and other boys to “show them what it was like to get a hernia exam.”

“He proceeded to tell us to drop our pants, drop our underwear and he decided to get on his knees and grope our genitals,” Hebert said. “The picture that I have in my mind, that always stays in my mind, is Father Hecker on his knees, looking up at me while he’s fondling my genitals.”

Hebert said he grew up in the Catholic church and his religious roots run deep.

When Hecker first came to town, Hebert said he was the school and parish’s younger, more modern priest. He said Hecker even came to his home for dinner.

“It was like a breath of fresh air, in a way,” Hebert said.

Decades later, Hebert said one of his friends called and asked him to be a witness in a criminal case against Hecker and the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Hebert agreed, and said he wishes he had come forward earlier.

“The guilt that I’ve been carrying from that moment on is that I didn’t tell anybody,” Hebert said. “I didn’t tell a soul. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell the teacher. And not having told anybody, I just felt what happened and knowing what happened, what Hecker did, I probably could have saved a bunch of children if I only would’ve said something. And I didn’t.”

An Orleans Parish grand jury indicted Hecker on Sept. 7, charging the Metairie man with aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated crimes against nature and theft. Hecker pleaded not guilty last Wednesday (Sept. 13). It remains unclear whether any of the charges are related to Hebert’s allegations.

Hebert said he has spoken to New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond about what he said happened to him.

“Had his condolences, but I felt at the time that the condolences weren’t real enough,” Hebert said. “It seemed to me like he was reading a script that his attorneys told him to read.”

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The Archdiocese of New Orleans said Hecker was removed from the ministry six years before Aymond became archbishop. In a statement, the archdiocese said that since 2002, it has reported allegations against Hecker to law enforcement multiple times. In 2018, Aymond included Hecker on a list of clergy removed from ministry for what it determined to be credible allegations of abuse of a minor.

Aymond earlier this month sent a letter notifying parishioners of the archdiocese’s plans to lean more heavily on area churches, schools and ministries to help shoulder the cost of its bankruptcy proceedings brought on by clergy abuse claims.

“No, no, the parishioners had nothing to do with this. It’s the Archdiocese. It’s the archbishops,” Hebert said. “I have that faith that God is my Savior. Jesus is my Savior. But I don’t need an institution to tell me that. I lost all faith in the Catholic faith.”

Hebert said he spends much of his time these days building models of military vehicle. He said the hobby is therapeutic and something he can control.

He said he also is sharing his story because he doesn’t want to be a ‘John Doe’ anymore.

“I am Aaron Hebert. I’m a victim, I’m a survivor. Now I’m an advocate for all victims of clergy abuse,” he said.

Hecker’s attorney Bobby Hjortsberg told Fox 8 on Tuesday that the allegations against his client date back more than 40 years ago, involve one alleged victim and that Hecker is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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