Monday, November 19, 2012

SURPRISE - SEX ABUSE SCANDAL NOT OVER

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux [Roman Catholic] officials have said they had not heard reports of any predatory behavior by a former priest before a man came forward, accusing the priest of molesting him as an altar boy.

However, people who claim to have had sexual relationships with the Rev. Etienne LeBlanc said they felt preyed on by an authority figure who took advantage of them, even if they were not victims in the eyes of criminal law.

A civil suit against LeBlanc and the diocese, filed by Morgan City native Jared Ribardi, was settled last month, and LeBlanc, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has never been arrested under any criminal charges.

The alleged encounters happened at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Morgan City, which is part of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. LeBlanc has also worked at Annunziata Catholic Church in Houma and is now retired.

Louis Aguirre, spokesman for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, wrote a letter to The Courier and Daily Comet after the settlement, which was not disclosed.

The diocese “has not ever known of any alleged ‘predatory behavior’ by Father LeBlanc,” Aguirre wrote, referring to Ribardi’s attorney’s allegations that the diocese knew about his predatory sexual behavior for 25 years.
I'd heard the priest's name bandied about for years, and I remember when LeBlanc went on sabbatical in the 1980s, but I don't recall the reason given for his absence at the time.
Natchitoches resident Clayton Delery, 55, said he disagreed with that statement when he read it.

Delery said when he was 17 he met LeBlanc at Teens Encounter Christ, a retreat for high school students in Reserve. They became friends, and Delery would sometimes visit LeBlanc at his rectory in Reserve, where they had sex, Delery said.
Since Delery was 17, the sexual encounters were not illegal, but LeBlanc surely abused his position of power by having sex with a 17 year old member of his parish.  The diocese said the priest received counseling during the year 1986-1987 and was deemed fit by doctors to return to parish work.
The alleged sexual encounters between LeBlanc and Ribardi, which include accusations that LeBlanc forced Ribardi to perform oral sex, happened in the early 1990s when Ribardi was as young as 9 and as old as 14, according to his civil petition.
Apparently, the counseling the doctors thought worked so wonderfully well did not, after all, "take".

Others have stepped forward with further information on two other instances of alleged abuse of  persons who were college students at the time, who have since died, one by suicide and the other from AIDS.  So far as is known, the diocesan authorities were not told.  The family of the man who died of AIDS asked that he not be identified.
His first cousin said she was going to testify at Ribardi’s trial. The woman, who asked to be unnamed because her identity would reveal her cousin’s, said he confessed on his deathbed to her that he had a sexual relationship with a priest while he was a college student.

“Later in life, it disturbed him greatly. ... As he was dying, he displayed anger toward the Catholic Church and would not accept the sacraments,” or Last Rites, she said.
I'm not sure why LeBlanc is referred to as an ex-priest in the article.  A retired priest is still a priest, not an ex-priest.  Was LeBlanc defrocked?  I doubt it.

UPDATE: I spoke to the reporter who wrote the story, and she clarified that she meant retired priest, rather than ex-priest.