January 08, 2005

Accused priest files suit against N.O. archbishop

The Times-Picayune

Saturday, January 08, 2005
By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer

A Catholic priest took the extraordinary step of suing his archbishop Friday, charging that Archbishop Alfred Hughes defamed him by ordering him out of his Marrero pulpit on a charge that he molested a child.

The Rev. Michael Fraser also charged that Hughes violated the church's own procedures when he relieved Fraser from ministry as pastor of Visitation of Our Lady Parish.

He said Hughes acted before the completion of a preliminary investigation, as church policy requires.

Hughes relieved Fraser of all priestly duties and ordered him to leave Visitation last January. That was a day after the Archdiocese of New Orleans received a complaint from a man who said Fraser had sexually molested him as a child at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Pearl River in the mid-1980s.

A letter from Hughes dated Jan. 14 told the pastor of Hughes' decision. Hughes told Fraser the church would pursue an investigation to "acquire a clear and specific understanding" of the facts underlying the allegation, according to the lawsuit.

Ten days later, the archdiocese called a news conference to announce its action -- a novel, aggressive move compared with its earlier handling of such cases.

Posted by kshaw at January 8, 2005 04:41 AM