Mea Maxima: Voices Unheard, 6
Father Gauthe, Part Deux
For Fr. Gauthe, though, it was not ostriches, but chickens who were coming home to roost. In 1983, to put it bluntly, the shit hits the fan and legal action is finally threatened. Bishop Frey warns Fr. Gauthe, so that he has time to slip out of town heading to Massachusetts for treatment at the House of Affirmation, the very same place Canadian Christian Brother Edward English found harbor. This attractive Victorian manse on 26 tree-clad acres offered refuge to pedophiles.
According to their brochure:
Everyone agrees there is a crisis in the priest-hood and in the religious life. Not everyone, however, realizes that this crisis, more frequently than not, is an expression of emotional underdevelopment or emotional illness — severe in some and moderate to slight in others. . .
It is our purpose at the House of Affirmation to provide an opportunity for self-discovery, emotional growth and cure through the contemporary approaches of psychology/psychiatry in dialogue with recent theological developments. Such is realized through a three-fold program: Service, Education and Research. It is our hope at the House of Affirmation to help the individual to become a fully human, consistently free person within the context of the ecclesial calling and in relationship to society.
This is the service that was offered to predatory escapees from justice. Founded by Executive Director Reverend Thomas A. Kane, “M.A., S.T.M., Ph.D., D.P.S.” the S.T.M., a “master’s degree in sacred theology” and a doctorate in psychology, plus kudos from the Wall Street Journal and the British Academy of Psychological Sciences; he was voted a 1972 “Outstanding Young Leader” by the Chamber of Commerce.
Reverend Kane was later accused himself of sexually abusing Mark Barry, a young boy, over a period of years. According to David Chen of the New York Times, “In 1995, Mr. Barry settled his case for $42,500. As part of the agreement, neither Father Kane, the House of Affirmation, nor any of the priests affiliated with the institution admitted any wrongdoing.” (What are they, Goldman Sachs?). After working some years in Mexico, Kane was, according to Bishop Accountability website, “voluntarily laicized” in 2012. FYI: this laicization keeps the priest on the payroll but removes all priestly responsibilities and privileges, except in an emergency, when a laicized priest may be able to perform last rites, for example. Anyway.
By this point the House had been closed amid legal charges of financial improprieties and sexual abuses. Oh, and in the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Gold Medal category, the Catholic Church refused to sell this property to a married gay couple for use as a center for conferences and wedding receptions. After all, as a Church spokesman said, “We wouldn’t sell our churches and our properties to any of a number of things that would reflect badly on the church.” It’s okay to host perpetrators of forced sex against children but absolutely verboten to host consenting adults who wish to make a lifelong commitment based on love.
[ . . . Excuse me. I just had to step outside and scream.].
Father Gauthe stayed for year with his bills paid by the same diocese he had so monstrously betrayed. But as Harris reminds us, “Under canon law, the medical expenses of priests are specifically the responsibility of the church.” I guess that’s why, in the recent case of Scottish Cardinal O’Brien, the homophobe priest who hid decades worth of homosexual affairs in his closet, the Church is still buying his rather pricey retirement home. My question is: If the priests are no longer functioning as priests, that is, no longer remaining celibate, no longer respecting the sanctity of the confessional, etc., why must the Church still support them as if they were? But to cut them off, as a friend of mine often says about so many exhibits of contemporary (and historical) insanity, would be too much like making sense.
Despite the Church paying out $15 million in damages, criminal charges are finally brought against Fr. Gauthe in October 1984, twelve years after the first complaints. Once the press rips the veil of secrecy asunder in 1985, seven more predators in the Church are uncovered. In 1986, the same year Msgr. Larroque, Vicar General of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, smiles and smirks and squints and squirms and lies at CBS correspondent Jane Wallace, as he claims, hesitantly and unconvincingly, that the big muckety-mucks in the diocese didn’t know anything about the clerical sex abuse crisis, had never met people like that before. Gauthe pleads guilty and, for once, a judge lowers the boom.
Judge Brunson has the option of sending him out of state to a maximum security institution for special deviants, but chooses instead to sentence Gauthe to twenty years at hard labor without parole in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, a prison with the reputation as one of the toughest in the nation. In the judge’s words:
It may be that God in His infinite mercy may find forgiveness for your crimes, but the imperative of justice, and the inescapable need of society to protect its most defenseless and vulnerable members, the children, cannot.
Amen. But it’s not yet time to rest on the laurels of justice; Gauthe didn’t have to stay in the Pen. A family friend got him transferred to an air-conditioned suite at the Wade Correctional Center, a medium-security unit where he could get psychiatric help and medication.
What kind of friend was that, you might ask. What kind of friends with that kind of juice could a pedophile priest possibly have? (Hold tight to your head in case your brain explodes). Chief Justice of the U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals: Judge Henry Politz.
Politz, whose sister had been best friends with Gauthe’s mother, also arranged for Gauthe to leave “prison” eleven years before his “with no parole” sentence ended. Eleven years. Almost as soon as he got out, he moved to the Texas-Louisiana border where he was soon caught abusing a three-year old boy. He got seven years of probation. Probation. Ahhh, the foul stench of privilege.
I can’t figure out how someone with his record could get probation for the very same crime, but I guess it’s like that white guy in Alabama with a criminal record for violence against family and strangers, who had been in a mental institution. He couldn’t legally get a “concealed carry” permit, but the Great State of Alabama decided that he still deserved to have a gun; he shot eleven people in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. This is the same Alabama, by the way, cheering for the firing of black NFL players exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech by kneeling, that’s right kneeling, during the National Anthem in protest of black people being gunned down by the police.
Those innocent people in the movie theater had no protection from the clear, previously identified threat coming toward them. But Fr. Gauthe, a child rapist, did. When Protector Politz died, however, the County of Galveston in the Greater State of (pre-Abbott) Texas showed some sense and put Gauthe back in the pokey for failing to register as a sex offender. Better than nothing. He got out in 2010.
There was once a slogan: “Don’t Mess with Texas.” It was originally intended to discourage littering, but I’m reminded of it because Texas has been in the vanguard, stronger than Alabama and Louisiana in matters of clerical abuse. But back when Texas was putting Gauthe in the hoosegow, Louisiana was shooting the messengers.
However, there are indications that change is coming to Louisiana. The following scene from 2018 could be proof:
Four reporters’ mics are on a podium. On the large wall-mounted TV screen the emblem of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana is displayed with the imposing dates: 1918–2018. A middle-aged streaked blond in black slacks topped with a swirling white floral pattern on a black background that barely peeks through the three-quarter-length sleeved top. She is Blue Rolfes, Director of Communications for the diocese. She is followed by Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel. who shows an atypical sympathy for the victim: “the priest is supposed to be light, not darkness in peoples’ lives.”
He mentions the Church’s current “zero tolerance” practice, noting that the report came from 1994. It was not addressed until 2018. The Diocese had sought a CDF ruling, but 1994 canon law said the victim was an adult, so they didn’t act, even though civil law considered her a minor; she was seventeen.
This inaction seems to be a feature, not a bug. Such was certainly the case in the matter of Gauthe.
As a result of his work defending the Gauthe case followed by the Church’s subsequent inaction, Ray Mouton, Gauthe’s defense attorney and loyal Catholic, sank into a profound alcohol-fueled depression and disillusionment that cost him his career, his wife, and his faith. After traveling the country with Fr. Thomas Doyle — the previously mentioned canon lawyer who is still working to help victims, researching and writing a report on the state of pedophilia in the Church — Mouton, scion of a wealthy and politically prominent Louisiana family, eventually regained his sobriety and moved to a small village in southwestern France living near a Catholic church where he cannot bring himself to attend a single mass.
One of the bishops who advised Doyle and Mouton was Bernard Law who later became Bernard Cardinal Law. More on him later. In what seems to be a rare departure, the Church cut Gauthe loose. Church officials say they are not supporting him, however I haven’t been able to find a public record that he has been officially removed from the priesthood. Perhaps he got lost in the morass of shuffling paperwork as more and more pedophile priests in Southern Louisiana crawled like wood-fattened termites out of their dank hiding places.
In a September 1992 issue of the Houston Chronicle, Evan Moore reported that “two other priests in the diocese were charged with child abuse, five more had been implicated and at least 20 others were suspected.” Later, much later, for a 2015 issue of USA Today, the same journalist told the story of Mouton’s long journey toward redemption. By 2019 the dioceses of Texas jetted ahead, publicly releasing a list of 286 credibly accused priests.