NEW ORLEANS — A small group of survivors of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy protested outside a special Mass this week, calling on Archbishop Aymond to resign over his handling of the clergy abuse crisis.
Three survivors stood outside the gates of St. Angela Merici on Wednesday, holding “Aymond Must Go” signs as the archbishop entered for Mass on the first day of a three-day Mission to the Holy Spirit.
The archdiocese issued this statement about the 73-year-old Aymond:
“Archbishop Aymond has no intention of resigning or retiring until the age of 75 when it is canonically required of him to submit his retirement letter. He was among the first bishops in the country and the first in the State of Louisiana to voluntarily release the names and assignment histories of clerics who had been removed from ministry because of accusations they abused a minor.”
It’s the first time in years that survivors have protested to call for Aymond to step down. Survivors held up some of the same signs they used at much larger protests in 2020 and 2021.
For example, they protested at the New Orleans Saints practice facility in January 2020 after The Associated Press, WWL-TV and two other local TV stations sued for access to emails between the New Orleans Saints and the archdiocese about Aymond’s decision to put out a list of clergy who were credibly accused of sexually abusing children or vulnerable adults.
They renewed their calls for Aymond to resign outside an all-priests meeting at Notre Dame Seminary in October 2020, where Aymond addressed priests about the clergy abuse crisis. They did so again when the archbishop went to a church in Pearl River in 2021 to burn a church altar where a priest had been caught having sex with two dominatrices.
The latest protest, albeit much smaller than the previous ones, was prompted by a series of stories in the British newspaper The Guardian by WWL-TV reporting partner Ramon Vargas. He uncovered secret church files and a memo by survivors’ attorneys detailing how the archdiocese handled accusations against several priests whose names never appeared on the list.
“Open up the documents to us. Let us heal. Let us, as people, know the truth,” said one of the protesters, Steve McEvoy, who was among more than two dozen children allegedly molested by a Catholic school teacher, deacon George Brignac, in the 1970s and 1980s, according to police and Orleans Parish prosecutors.
Another alleged Brignac victim, John Anderson IV, was one of the rare people to come forward with allegations when he was still a child.
His parents filed criminal charges against Brignac in 1977, when Anderson was 9. But a devoutly Catholic judge acquitted Brignac at a bench trial that year. Brignac died in 2020, while awaiting another molestation trial. WWL-TV and Vargas teamed up to review the prosecutors’ files, which showed the church ordained Brignac despite warnings that he had been too friendly with children, then let him participate in church functions with children after more rape allegations, until shortly before his death.
Last week, Vargas reported on a secret memo written by attorneys for abuse victims that had been shielded in the church’s bankruptcy case. He shared portions of it with WWL-TV.
The attorneys sent the memo to law enforcement after reviewing thousands of secret church files that are sealed in bankruptcy court. It says more than 300 New Orleans-area clergymen are accused of abusing minors or vulnerable adults, but Aymond only reported 76 of them on his public list of credibly accused clergy.
The memo also cites internal church files, showing Aymond kept at least four living priests off the public list, even after an independent review board found abuse claims against them were credible.
“That's where he messed up,” Anderson said. “He should have done much better. He should have stepped up for the survivors, like he promised me two feet away from me, and said he was going to make this right. And he continues to not do so.”
The Archdiocese sent us a statement after Vargas' story appeared in the Guardian. It vehemently denied that Aymond has mishandled the clergy abuse crisis. It also says there are reasons Aymond left certain priests off the credibly accused list.
The statement said the priests named in The Guardian story were “not listed because subsequent information came to light that made the claim implausible or unlikely.”
Aymond's list came out in November 2018. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in May 2020, seeking protection from mounting clergy sex abuse lawsuits. Nearly five years after the list was released, 450 abuse claimants are still waiting for settlements through the church's bankruptcy case. Meanwhile, the archdiocese has paid attorneys and consultants for the church and its creditors a total of more than $26 million.
“Five years is too long, and they'll continue to go. There's no end in sight,” Anderson said, breaking down in tears. “You know, half our lives have been destroyed over our abuse. We'd like to live out the rest of our half of our lives in some kind of peace and security.”