New details emerge in dismissed lawsuit in alleged Loyola priest abuse case

Updated: Jul. 10, 2018 at 5:53 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A local attorney said the Archdiocese of New Orleans avoided a lot of bad publicity by reportedly settling a case involving a Loyola priest accused of raping a 5-year-old girl over several years.

The dismissal comes shortly after the Archdiocese paid out a $500,000 sex abuse settlement involving a former deacon and an altar boy.

Two years ago a woman identified as Jane Doe sued the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Loyola University and the Jesuit governing organization, claiming priest Ben Wren sexually abused for her seven years.

Court documents obtained by FOX 8 allege that Jane Doe's grandmother, a Loyola staff member, trusted Wren, since he was a Jesuit priest and a university professor.

The lawsuit, dismissed last week, said that "Jane Doe would frequently be called on by Father Wren to assist him on errands," and that "the sexual abuse began slowly with light touching and caressing." The suit alleged "the sexual abuse continued for the next several years...and included forcible sexual intercourse when Jane Doe reached the age of 9 or 10 years old."

The alleged victim is now 45, and had the case gone to trial, one criminal defense attorney said testimony promised to be rough.

"Terribly, all those details would come out in sworn testimony. That's going to be public knowledge, and it's difficult," said attorney Bobby Hjortsberg.

Dozens of court documents were filed in Orleans Civil Court over the past two years.

On Friday, the Advocate reported that a settlement had been reached.

"The Catholic Church certainly has the resources to settle these cases, and it's certainly in their best interest to do so," said Hjortsberg.

Wren was  popular at Loyola, and his classes often difficult to get into.

The suit alleged that Wren, "Was permitted to create a Buddhist Christian Zendo, or religious hall, on the campus of Loyola in Marquette hall, where he would preach, and conduct Zen meditation for students and followers." The suit also said if Jane Doe "were to tell their 'secret," it would be a "very bad sin, and that God would get her mother, father, and grandmother, and send them to Hell."

It also alleged as a direct result of alleged abuse, Jane Doe was damaged physically, emotionally and spiritually and attempted suicide.

Wren died of cancer in 2006.

There was no comment from Loyola, the Archdiocese or Jane Doe's attorney on the reported settlement.

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