US football team allegedly helped Catholic Church cover-up its crimes

US football team allegedly helped Catholic Church cover-up its crimes January 25, 2020
Image via YouTube

THE New Orleans Saints, owned by devout Catholic Gayle Benson, above, are fighting to conceal hundreds of emails that allegedly show how team executives advised the the area’s Roman Catholic archdiocese Catholic Church on how to lessen the impact of clerical abuse.

According to a Marketwatch report published yesterday, attorneys for about two dozen men suing the church say in court filings that the 276 documents they obtained through discovery show that the NFL team aided the Archdiocese of New Orleans in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes.”

The attorneys wrote in a court filing:

Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia. The Saints realize that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organization also will be smearing itself.

Saints attorneys, in court papers, disputed any suggestion that the team helped the church cover up crimes, calling such claims “outrageous.” They further said that the emails, exchanged in 2018 and 2019, were intended to be private and should not be “fodder for the public.” The archdiocese is also fighting the release of the emails.

A court-appointed special master is expected to hear arguments in the coming weeks on whether the communications should remain confidential.

The Associated Press, which has extensively covered clergy sexual abuse in a series of stories over the past year, filed a motion with the court supporting the release of the documents as a matter of public interest. AP argued:

This case does not involve intensely private individuals who are dragged into the spotlight but well-known mega-institutions that collect millions of dollars from local residents to support their activities.

Image via YouTube

Ties between local church leaders and the Saints include a close friendship between New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, above, and Gayle Benson, who inherited the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team when her husband, Tom Benson, died in 2018. The archbishop was at Gayle Benson’s side as she walked in the funeral procession.

Benson has given millions of dollars to Catholic institutions in the New Orleans area, and the archbishop is a regular guest of hers at games and charitable events for the church.

Attorneys for the men suing the church say “multiple” Saints personnel, including Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel, used their team email to advise church officials on “messaging” and how to soften the impact of the archdiocese’s release of a list of clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote:

The information at issue bears a relationship to these crimes because it is a continuation of the Archdiocese’s pattern and practice of concealing its crimes so that the public does not discover its criminal behavior. And the Saints joined in.

Attorneys for the Saints acknowledged in a court filing that the team assisted the archdiocese in its publishing of a “credibly accused” clergy list, but said that was an act of disclosure – “the opposite of concealment.”

Image via the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office in New Orleans

The fight over the emails is part of a flurry of claims filed against the archdiocese over its employment of George F Brignac, above, a longtime schoolteacher and deacon who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy accused him of fondling him at a Christmas party. That accusation followed claims that Brignac abused several other boys, including one case that led to his acquittal in 1978 on three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

Church officials permitted Brignac, 85, to act as a lay minister until local news accounts of his service in 2018 prompted his ousting and an apology from the archdiocese.

The AP last year reported that Brignac, despite his supposed defrocking, also maintained access to schoolchildren and held leadership roles as recently as 2018 in the Knights of Columbus.

Following a new wave of publicity — in which Brignac told a reporter he had touched boys but never for “immoral purposes” – Brignac was indicted last month on a rape charge that could land him behind bars for the rest of his life. The prosecution came more than a year after a former altar boy told police that Brignac repeatedly raped him beginning in the late 1970s. Police said the abuse began when the boy was 7 and continued until he was 11.

The archdiocese, meanwhile, has settled several lawsuits against Brignac and included the former deacon in the list of more than 50 names it released in late 2018 of “credibly accused” clergy.

A lawyer for the archdiocese, E Dirk Wegmann, said earlier this month that the plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking the release of the Saints emails were engaged:

In a proverbial witch hunt with respect to decades-old abuse.

Wegman told the special master that the plaintiffs only want the Saints emails released so they can give them to the media and “unfairly try to tar and feather the archdiocese.”


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • ianeymeaney

    The Catholic Church can geaux to Hell.

  • Old Harry

    Another businessman gets caught being a crook in the US, where that is a minimum requirement for entry into the profession?

    Say it isn’t so, Mr. President!

  • Matt G

    A “witch-hunt with respect to decades-old abuse“? If it happened, it’s *by definition* not a witch-hunt.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    unfairly try to tar and feather the archdiocese.

    By all means, let’s tar and feather them FAIRLY.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    the Saints acknowledged in a court filing that the team assisted the archdiocese in its publishing of a “credibly accused” clergy list

    … because the archdiocese of New Freakin’ Orleans, having been elevated to diocese in April SEVENTEEN HUNDRED AND NINETY THREE, with THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE THOUSAND people as members, doesn’t know how to post a list on a website.

    Yeah, I believe that….

  • Jim Jones

    If they’ve nothing to hide, wouldn’t they want to prove it? Both parties?

  • kaydenpat

    Because a pedophile-protection ring can be unfairly tarred and feathered.
    **rolls eyes**

  • anxionnat

    “Witch-hunt”, huh? Consider the source, and its history with, well, witches. If I were them, I’d be careful about flinging around this kind of language…

  • Joe_Buddha

    But, didn’t the Donald just show us that ANYTHING you don’t like can be a witch hunt? I’m so confused….

  • Brian Curtis

    I wonder how many Saints fans are shocked and disappointed to suddenly learn that their team has a ‘close relationship’ with the Catholic Church in the first place. Are we going to have to run checks on all sports franchises from now on?

  • a_b704

    I don’t get it. Those players are far too old for the average Catholic priest!

  • Steven Watson

    Of the case in question the victim said:

    “In the end, it’s basically my word versus his,”

    of events from forty years ago. The prosecution has an uphill struggle. Acknowledging the difficulties involved actually lends credibility to the victim. If the case results in an aquittal it will probably be that the prosecution can’t overcome the burden of proof because of the paucity of the evidence.