Man files lawsuit against archdiocese for alleged molestation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 7, 2002


LAPLACE – The national sex scandal involving Catholic priests hit home Thursday when a New Orleans man filed suit against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, claiming a LaPlace priest molested him 15 years ago.

The lawsuit was filed by a man identified only as “R.J.A.,” and in it, he claims a priest, known to him only as “Father Vic” molested him at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church when he was 11 years old. The Rev. William Maestri, speaking for the Archdiocese, responded, “It would be premature for me to comment on it,” adding the suit had not been officially served as of Friday morning.

However, a meeting of all priests in the Archdiocese was called for May 16, to be held at Notre Dame Seminary. This closed meeting will be preceded by a press briefing, but the exact agenda is not yet known.

“We want to do what is right and proper,” Maestri said. “We don’t want priests who molest children in the Archdiocese – or in the Church. The good priests don’t want this.”

The suit details at least one alleged incident 15 years ago, “during which Father Vic sexually fondled R.K.A.’s genital area and on at least one occasion.”

Harold Wheelahan III, one of the attorneys involved in the suit for Stephen Rue & Associates, initially said “Father Vic” was still active as a priest. He later said the priest may be dead.

However, memories of any “Father Vic” ever being at St. Joan of Arc are hard to come by.

Brent Tregre, who was founding chairman of the Pastoral Council, said he has “racked his brain” trying to come up with anyone by that name.

“I can’t figure this out,” he said, and added, “I’ve been intimately involved with these guys. Nothing fits.”

The closest Tregre recalled was the Rev. Ramon Martinez, who was later murdered in the French Quarter, at which time his homosexuality was revealed.

The Rev. Robert Vincent, who served St. Joan of Arc from 1985 to 2001, said the only priest he ever knew as “Father Vic” there around that time was a Filipino “supply priest” filling in for vacation, who returned to the Philippines when his visa was up.

St. Joan of Arc was a mission of St. Peter Church in Reserve until 1947, with the first pastor being the Rev. Henry Neubig.

The second pastor, the Rev. Charles Speaker, served from 1950 to 1959. He was followed by Msgr. Edward Boudreaux, who served from 1959 to 1963. The fourth pastor was Msgr. Dennis “Father Pete” Bergeron, who served until his death in 1989, followed by the Rev. Robert Vincent, who had served as co-pastor since 1985, who served until last year.

The present pastor is the Rev. Wayne Paysse.

Wheelahan said “R.J.A.” is now 26 years old and left LaPlace when he became an adult. His parents are still in LaPlace and still active in the church, though, Wheelahan added, “They are very troubled and embarrassed by it.”

Wheelahan said, though, “R.J.A.” asked him not to talk to his parents about the matter.

Before the scandal broke, the lawyer continued, “He didn’t think writing a letter to the Archdiocese would do any good.”

However, the lawyer insisted that “R.J.A.” is not someone attempting to cash in on the scandal, but is someone “really deeply troubled” by all this. “I truly believe him,” Wheelahan said.