NEW ORLEANS —
For many Catholics, the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter is a majestic site, but for Kevin Bourgeois, the church and the religion carries with it terrible memories.
“My entire formation as a young boy to a man was a Catholic. It was my center of life and socialization. For me, the abuse by a priest who was so beloved shattered that for me," Bourgeois said.
"So I don’t need the church. There’s nothing Archbishop Aymond can say that can draw me to go to church on Sunday. I don’t need that," he said.
Bourgeois and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) have been standing in front of the church demanding reform by not just the church, but Attorney General Jeff Landry.
“I feel like Louisiana is an uphill battle for us, for victims and survivors,” Richard Windmann said.
The survivors say they want not just Catholics, but Louisianans to call the Attorney General’s office to demand they set up a statewide hotline to report clergy sex crimes. They’re also demanding changes to the statute of limitations law.
“In Louisiana, we have a real problem with our highest levels of trusted prosecutors. In Acadiana, a district attorney stated on public television that he does not need to do an investigation [because] the Catholic Church has already done their investigation,” Windmann said.
“Having church members review those records of who is a credibly abused priest of sexual assault is like having the fox guard the hen house. He’s covering up for people,” Bourgeois said.
On Saturday, Landry issued a statement encouraging anyone who has experienced abuse to call the Louisiana Bureau of Investigations:
“As Attorney General, I have consistently urged victims of abuse by a member of clergy – or anyone else in our State - to come forward and report it. Anyone needing assistance can call my office’s LBI (Louisiana Bureau for Investigation) Hotline at 1-800-256-4506, and we will connect them to the proper authorities including local law enforcement or the District Attorney with jurisdiction.”
The Archdiocese of New Orleans released the names of accused clergy members back in November. They released the following statement on Saturday in response to SNAP’s concerns:
“Our list of accused clergy has been turned over to law enforcement. We have fully cooperated and will continue to cooperate with any further inquiry from the authorities.”