February 11, 2005

Accused priest suing Hughes for defamation


Friday, February 11, 2005
By Bruce Nolan
Staff writer
A third New Orleans priest relieved of duty on a charge he sexually abused a child has sued Archbishop Alfred Hughes for defamation, representing a growing local backlash against Hughes' determination to take accused priests out of their pulpits after a quick evaluation of the complaints against them.

Although no one keeps track of such suits nationally, a few are beginning to emerge around the country as accused priests fight back against an internal church process they believe has swung too far against them, several observers said.

Three suits in a single diocese appears to be unusual.

"Priests feel completely abandoned by their bishops -- thrown to the wolves, so to speak," said Joe Maher, a Detroit businessman who founded an organization that supports Catholic priests taken out of the ministry.

Church spokesmen, by contrast, note ruefully that while they were once criticized for acting too slowly, they are now under fire for being seen as acting too quickly. They say they have struck the right balance between protecting children and protecting priests when there are few facts to work with, only allegations and denials from each side.

"The archdiocese is attempting to lift a very, very delicate but heavy load here," said the Rev. William Maestri, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Posted by kshaw at February 11, 2005 07:49 AM