New alleged victims of former deacon come forward

New alleged victims of former deacon come forward

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The attorney for the victim in a church sex abuse settlement says five more people have come forward claiming former deacon George Brignac abused them.

"Looking back on mental health issues and physical issues, I can attribute that to the abuse that he put me through," said a former Holy Rosary altar boy.

"He reached his hand into my pants and started  fondling me," said a former Brignac student at St Matthew's.

Now their attorney, Roger Stetter, says five more people have come forward - two from St Matthew's, where Brignac served as a teacher 40 years ago, and three from Holy Rosary Church in New Orleans, where he was a deacon in charge of altar boys.

"My client is still recovering some of the abuse memories, still having flashbacks," said Stetter.

Stetter said some of the men have only recently remembered the alleged abuse due to a condition called repressed memory.

EXCLUSIVE: George Brignac speaks about settlement.

"The memory flooded back to me after my mom saw him in the grocery store," said the former Holy Rosary altar boy, who recently won a $500,000 settlement.

And noted church sex abuse author Jason Berry, who's written three books on the issue, said he is not surprised.

"I know of a number of cases of repressed memory that have been validated and the church has made settlements," said Berry.

Berry says the "Me Too" movement maybe bringing to light new cases.

"No, I'm not surprised, we are seeing more and more sexual abuse in a range of institutions," said Berry.

Stetter says sometimes the memory is refreshed by traumatic circumstances.

"They can be recovered through a death in the family, you go to a church, you have a car accident, you're in the hospital. Victims are lonely and hurting and it comes back," said Stetter.

And though repressed memory is often challenged in court, Stetter says it's been upheld many times.

"These are real things, it's a coping mechanism. In some cases you never recover them," said Stetter.

Though the number of abuse allegations have dwindled, they have not gone away, and have caused some long term impacts.

Berry says in 2007 in Los Angeles alone, the Catholic Church paid out $700 million in abuse settlements.

Respect for religious institutions appears to have dwindled.

"According to the Pew Trust, the percentage of people who have no religion has risen, by 15 percent, the number of Catholics is down 25 percent," said Berry.

It is a problem that Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond says he is concerned about.

"My advice would be if anyone has abused you, clergy teachers, coaches, if anyone has abused you please come forward I would personally like to talk to you and help provide healing,' said Aymond.

And as more alleged victims come forward, the Archdiocese says it is keeping open lines of communication between the victims' advocates and the church.

Last week, the New Orleans Police Department opened a new criminal case against Brignac. The victims' attorney says he's been tried before, and was acquitted, but he says he's been assured that "times are different now."