NEW ORLEANS — Saints Owner Gayle Benson broke her silence on the accusations that the Saints organization helped the Archdiocese of New Orleans in its public relations with the church sex abuse crisis and specifically the release of parish priests credibly-accused of abuse.
"I have decided to no longer stand idly by while stories are written about our role in this matter and speak to this in my own words. This is a profoundly sad time for the Church, but more so for the victims that live with the daily pain that was inflicted upon them," Benson wrote.
Benson maintains that Greg Bensel, the Saints senior vice president of communications, helped guide the Archdiocese as they released a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse in 2018, but did not have any influence over which names were and were not included on the list.
"Greg informed me that his recommendations were consistent with the Archdiocese which included: be honest, complete and transparent; own the past wrongs and find a solution to correct them and then define those solutions that are in place now to protect victims," Benson wrote.
"We are proud of the role we played and yes, in hindsight, we would help again to assist the Archdiocese in its ability to publish the list with the hope of taking this step to heal the community. In addition, we already turned over every email to the court and plaintiff attorneys."
Attorneys suing the church allege that confidential Saints emails show the team actively helping to shape a list of credibly-accused clergy that appears to be an undercount.
"This goes beyond public relations," the attorneys wrote, accusing the Saints of issuing misleading statements saying their work for the Archdiocese involved only "messaging" and handling media inquiries as part of the 2018 release of the clergy names.
Instead, they wrote, "The Saints appear to have had a hand in determining which names should or should not have been included on the pedophile list."
WWL-TV, The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate and the city’s other major television stations have filed a motion asking that they be allowed access to an upcoming court hearing on the question of whether emails and other communications between the Archdiocese of New Orleans and executives of the New Orleans Saints organization should remain confidential.
The hearing in question is set for Feb. 20. The hearing arose from a lawsuit filed by an anonymous man who says he was molested by George Brignac, a former Catholic deacon, decades ago. Brignac’s conduct has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, and he faces a criminal charge of rape in Orleans Parish.
.During the discovery process in the case, lawyers for the plaintiffs unearthed 276 emails that show that members of the Saints organization were advising church officials on how to manage the fallout from sex-abuse scandal, which reignited locally after the Brignac revelations.
The Saints and the archdiocese have said the emails are confidential and should remain so.