Bishop Asks Diocese for Prayers In Sex Scandals
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) _ A third Roman Catholic priest has been forced out of his pastoral duties in a Cajun diocese amid allegations of sexual abuse, and the bishop has asked parishioners for their ″prayers and understanding.″
″I deeply regret and am distressed by the suffering that has taken place because of the tragic events in the diocese over the past several years,″ Bishop Gerard L. Frey said in a statement which he read to reporters.
He did not mention the claims of abuse in his announcement Monday that the Rev. John Engbers, 63, had retired from the priesthood and returned to his native Holland.
Engbers is named in a $50 million suit against the church filed last week by five sisters who say each was molested for several years when they were children, beginning about 1957.
Another woman, Brenda Andrepont Gossett of Lake Charles, told the weekly Times of Acadiana last week that Engbers molested her in 1952.
The sisters told the Times that they went to court because they were angry that the church had not removed Engbers immediately when they came forward with their allegations last December.
Frey, who became bishop 13 years ago, said the first complaint he received was in January 1985.
″I acted promptly by investigating the allegations and placing Father Engbers under psychiatric evaluation. ... At the conclusion of the evaluation, I asked Father Engbers to resign and to continue therapy,″ he said.
Bob Wright, lawyer for the diocese, said Tuesday that Engbers resigned because he had heart trouble and was nearly blind. However, he said, Frey told Engbers that he would have to continue therapy after his resignation if he did not want to be suspended, as well.
″I ask for the prayers and understanding of all our people,″ said Frey.
The bishop said he has provided professional counseling to the women.
″I have tried to reach out to the victims as my Christian duty obliges me,″ Frey said.
However, the bishop has done nothing similar for a boy whose allegations first brought a sex scandal involving a south Louisiana priest before the public, said attorney J. Minos Simon.
″He has yet to reach out for my client,″ said Simon.
Simon represents Glenn and Faye Gastal, who claim in a $12 million lawsuit that the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe sexually molested their son for nearly three years, starting when he was 7.
Gauthe was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison after confessing that he had molested about three dozen altar boys since 1973.
The Gastals’ son is in weekly therapy, and the bills have been piling up since the family’s feed store went out of business 10 months ago, Simon said.
Gastal has said that people stopped buying from him after the family, upset because a joint lawsuit with several other families was kept secret from the public, pulled out of that suit and hired Simon.
Simon won an order lifting the judge’s seal from the Gastals’ 1983 lawsuit.
Gauthe was stripped of his duties on June 30, 1983, and sent to a psychiatric hospital run by the church.
Henri Larroque, vicar general of the diocese, said in a deposition given for Gauthe’s case that the Rev. Lane Fontenot also was suspended in 1983 because of allegations that he sexually abused a boy in another parish.