Catholics form new group to fight for transparency and disclosure of secret records

Updated: Nov. 12, 2019 at 7:40 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -They call themselves Catholics of Louisiana for Church Reform.

They are convinced the future of the church depends on total transparency concerning the sexual abuse scandal and cover-up.

Despite the release of lists of credibly accused clergy, victims and their advocates have challenged the completeness and accuracy of the information made public in Southwest Louisiana and beyond. Luke Jones founded Catholics of Louisiana for Church Reform.

"This is an issue that’s going to continue unless people at the ground level in every church in every parish stand up to bishops and say, ‘No! We’re not going to stand for cover-up anymore. We want full transparency. We want full disclosure of documents from the past. We want to know what the past bishops were guilty of to go forward. How can you expect us to forgive you if you’re not willing to let us know what you did wrong?’“

Take for example, Mark Broussard, an ex-priest in prison for crimes against children.

The Lake Charles list indicates the Diocese first became aware of complaints against Broussard in 1994 yet a letter from the late Monsignor Irving DeBlanc to Broussard was written six years before in 1988, while Broussard was at Servants of the Paraclete treatment center in New Mexico. The letter, with a note to then Bishop Jude Speyrer, discusses DeBlanc’s decision to pay Broussard’s salary and other fees including insurance, and a car allowance while Broussard is in treatment. In all, DeBlanc agrees to pay $1021 a month. He also mentions the need for a Diocesan policy for such circumstances.

Jones had this reaction to the letter and DeBlanc’s decision to pay Broussard’s salary and other needs.

"As a Catholic, that gives to the church, it makes me not want to give anymore. It makes me not want to give knowing that my money's being used to support people who commit crimes against children," said Jones.

"What if Monsignor DeBlanc had taken these allegations to the sheriff's department or to law enforcement officials. Maybe Mark Broussard’s crimes could have been stopped sooner,” he said.

Jones thinks the future of the church depends on faithful Catholics fighting for full disclosure of what's been hidden.

"It might be that those documents would cause a lot of liability for these dioceses and they would lose a lot of money. But I tell you this. Most Catholics in the State of Louisiana would rather go to church in a field than attend a church that's covering up sexual abuse," said Jones.

Jones expects church reform to be a lifelong pursuit for himself and others dedicated to restoring trust.

The records that are public are only public because they were acquired by law enforcement agencies in the course of investigations and became public once the investigations were closed. In the case of Broussard, he was convicted of crimes and is in prison. In the case of Gerard Smit, he was never prosecuted.

A spokesperson for the Diocese says Smit, who was on the list of credibly accused clergy, is a vested member of the pension plan and so receives a retirement pension. At last word, Smit, in his nineties, was in a retirement facility on the east coast to lead a life of prayer and penance. The spokesman says no one else on the list gets a pension or salary.

The Diocese provided no comment on the creation of the reform group.

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