CHURCH SCANDAL REVEALS A HERO

Sunday Independent, September 2, 2012, By Donlan Lynch

 

 

 

The first thing you notice about Ray Mouton is his deep southern drawl; as thick as molasses and almost as sweet. A lawyer by trade, he hails from Louisiana, a part of the US replete with bayous, small farms and country chapels. The assumption might be that these are Protestant churches but in fact Bayou Country is overwhelmingly Catholic and Mouton was one of the faithful; His family donated the land on which a cathedral in Lafayette now stands and he was “as Catholic as they come, fifth generation”.

 

It seems ironic then that it was with this man in this state that America’s first breath of clerical scandal — soon to become a hurricane  — was felt. 

 

In 1984 Mouton was invited to a work lunch where he was told about a potential new client— a “problem priest” in a local parish. Father Gauthe, as he was known, had sexually abused scores of young boys. He had molested his first victim while he was pastor at a primary school in Louisiana. When the bishop learned what had happened, he told Gauthe to confess his sins and moved him to a different parish, where the molestation of children continued. Eventually, the bishop appointed Gauthe as the chaplain for the local chapter of the boy scouts. Gauthe was also promoted — he would serve as priest to two different parishes.



Unsurprisingly, the abuse continued. When one of the altar boys’ fathers complained, he was told by church officials that it was impossible to discipline Gauthe as they had nobody to replace him. Gauthe would commit what was later described as “every sex act imaginable” with these children. The abuse was at the very worst end of the scale — one boy would have to be hospitalised, so serious were the injuries Gauthe inflicted upon him.



Several of Gauthe’s victims had already been paid off with hush money. With mounting incredulity Mouton listened to much of this tale unfold. Then he was asked if he would like to represent Father Gauthe — the Catholic Church would be the guarantor of the fees. He reluctantly agreed — “working with the idealistic or naive belief that (Gauthe) was the only priest who had ever done something like this.”



Within three months of his work on the case commencing, Mouton was summoned to the Vatican Embassy in Washington D. C. by Father Thomas Doyle, who was the canon lawyer for the Papal Nuncio and who had been assigned by the Vatican to the Gauthe case. “He had been getting reports of many other instances of abuse in Louisiana and he sought me out because he felt I would be a more reliable source of information than the diocese”, Mouton recalls. “He and Father Michael Peterson, who was a priest psychiatrist, knew of hundreds of other similar cases around the country. Together these men and I wrote a 92-page document in 1985 in which we stated that there was a national crisis that needed to be addressed. We told them [the Vatican] that once there is an accusation, the priest in question needs to be immediately removed pending the outcome of an inquiry. We pointed out that there were no procedures in place to deal with these priests and that the problem was out of control. We dealt with civil, criminal and canonical legal factors. And essentially we got called Chicken Little.”



The Vatican had taken note of what was happening, however. Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop AJ Quinn of Cleveland to look into the unfolding scandal and to advise the Church on what needed to be done. He would report directly to Rome.



Mouton now says that the hierarchy asked him, Doyle and Peterson to destroy the document. The three men responded by having 500 copies made and sent to senior Church figures in America. “They (the hierarchy) were acting like the Nixon White Hous​e. We told them that they would lose over a billion dollars in 10 years. We predicted that they would lose a thousand priests. In the end, of course, it ended up being so much worse than that.”



In 1985, a press conference was held at which it was announced that the Church would form a committee to examine the problem. Thereafter, as Mouton tells it, there was an endless cycle of meetings, which together formed a smoke screen that hid the fact that nothing was being done to help the victims. The pattern of the Church defensively guarding against adverse media coverage to the detriment of victims was established and would continue through the Eighties and Nineties. Doyle himself later publicly described the committee as “window-dressing”.



Meanwhile, the Gauthe case was churning through the courts. Mouton had originally formulated an insanity defence but quickly realised that this would not hold water — Gauthe was adamant that his predilection was “natural” and he was clearly sane. In 1985 — the same year as the report was produced — he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. “God in his infinite mercy may find forgiveness for your crimes,” Judge Hugh Brunson told Gauthe. But the court, said Brunson, was faced with the “need of society to protect its most defenceless and vulnerable members, the children”.



The following year, Mouton resigned as Gauthe’s attorney — he was incensed that the plan to send Gauthe to a treatment facility for paedophiles had been overturned by a senior judge, who had grown up side by side with Gauthe. In 1995, after serving 10 years during which time, he “ruled” the prison, according to Mouton, Gauthe was released for good behaviour. Less than a year later he was arrested in Texas for the molestation of a three-year old boy. He had befriended the family of a child and taken him for an ice cream. Authorities there sentenced the by-then defrocked priest to seven years’ probation — incredibly he was not even sent to prison.



Gauthe was later sent to jail for not registering as a sex offender and released again two years ago. He has been reported by Catholic media in the US to now be living a “transient” lifestyle in Texas. Legally, this would mean he does not have to list his address, as is required of sex offenders under Texan law. Meanwhile the firestorm he ignited reached Europe — multiple official reports, including Murphy and Ferns in this country, would show that the Church’s cover-ups had been endemic and widespread. For Mouton, however, there was no sense of satisfaction at having been proven right.



He now says that he “overestimated my ability as a lawyer and my resources as a human being” to deal with the Gauthe case and the huge national and international implications it had. “I only felt (like I had been a) failure. I failed to save children from the Church; I failed to save the Church from itself. I may have fought valiantly, I may have burned myself up, but there is no way to feel any sort of vindication when you knew the depth of the problem and the vast numbers of victims who never got justice.”



The depth of this guilt and the emotional fallout from his efforts led Mouton to become a full-blown alcoholic. “For lack of a better phrase I think I developed a bi-polar brain,” he says. “I didn’t sleep when under stress. I have been on medication since 1986. My marriage fell apart completely. I had spent years obsessing about children whose names I would never know, meanwhile I ignored my own children — I was never home.



“A feature of bi-polar disorder is grandiosity. I look back and realise that I must have had an element of that. It would take grandiosity on the part of one man for him to think he could change the Catholic Church.” At barely 40 years old, Mouton says that he lost “my faith, my family and my profession.” He continues: “In 1986, my doctor told me that I had to leave the legal profession for my health’s sake. But I found it hard to let go. I would bring the newspapers with the headlines (reporting on the unfolding Church scandals) for my psychiatrist to see.”



He felt he had to tell the story, however, and for the past 12 years he has been writing a now completed novel about abuses in the Church – In God’s House.​

He says it’s about “truth, not facts” and chose the literary form because there were some elements of the church scandals that he did not personally experience, but he wanted the freedom to be able to incorporate them into a narrative — although you imagine this would also have been possible in non-fiction. The book tells the story of a young and conflicted Catholic lawyer’s “journey through a dark labyrinth — the back corridors of the oldest, largest, richest and most powerful religious institution on earth”. The story deals also with the fallout of the experience on the life of the lawyer. Mouton quotes the biblical admonishment in Luke 17:2: “If he were thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck, he would be far better off than facing the punishment in store for those who harm these little children’s souls.” In God’s House, he says, could have been set in any diocese in the world.

 

Today the 65-year-old’s health is better, he is happily remarried and he and his wife, Melony, divide their time between Louisiana, Mexico and Europe — he later emails me to say she wants to move to Ireland.

 

He has a good relationship with his first wife and children. In addition to working on the book he has written some crime novels and a collection of short stories.

He has dedicated In God’s House to the victims of sexual abuse in the Church — the “heroes in an historic story that is otherwise without heroes.”

Hearing Mouton’s story, however, it’s hard not to ascribe a small portion of that heroism to the man himself.

 

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​WHAT THE CATHOLIC BISHOP KNEW

The Guardian, Easter 2010, By Eamonn O’Neill

Eamonn O’Neill again interviewed the author for an article published in The Guardian, Easter 2010, a piece that dealt with a secret meeting Mouton, Fr. Thomas P. Doyle and Rev. Michael Peterson had in a Hilton Hotel at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in May of 1985 with one of the most powerful men in the Vatican today, Cardinal William Levada.​



"I would come to believe that not only is a priest who abuses a child acting out of pathology, but a bishop covering

up such heinous crimes is afflicted with a deeper, darker pathology that poses as great a threat, or even a greater threat, to society – for it was the bishops and the Vatican that empowered and enabled these criminals . . . to avoid scandal to the church."



The article discusses a secret meeting that was called at a Chicago hotel in May 1985 to discuss what was known as The Manual (authored by Mouton, Doyle and Peterson).  A then low-level auxiliary bishop from Los Angeles attended, William Levada.  Following the meeting an effort was made to kill the document, kill the truth of the crisis and scandal.

Mouton recalls:

"The meeting seemingly went well. Bishop Levada vetted every word of the document . . .”

In The Guardian article, O’Neill wrote:



In retrospect, Mouton wonders about Levada's attendance as the secret meeting and the reasons Levada denies remembering the meeting and the explosive document he reviewed that day.



"Levada worked in the Vatican in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and from 1981 to early 1983 directly under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was then prefect and would become Pope Benedict XVI. The trajectory of Levada's career after the attempt to kill the truth in the document was meteoric. In July 1986 he was made archbishop of Portland where the Diocese so bungled the abuse issue that it went into bankruptcy.  He was further promoted in August 1995 to be Archbishop of San Francisco where he was severely criticized for his blundering actions in regard to clergy abuse. Shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he appointed Archbishop Levada to the powerful position of Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and Levada was elevated to cardinal. Thus, he is now the person charged with full responsibility for all matters relating to clergy abuse.”

​Mouton said:

"Was Levada the eyes and ears of Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in that meeting? I only know that he worked with and for Ratzinger before his secret meeting with us and obviously remained close to him for 24 years, and [he]

possesses a quality I believe Joseph Ratzinger values above all others: loyalty to Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI. "



The Guardian, April 3, 2010

 



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THE CHURCH ON TRIAL

CBS 60 MINUTES II

June 12, 2002, Journalist:  Ed Bradley



On the eve of the first meeting of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops held in Dallas, Texas to discuss clergy abuse, CBS 60 Minutes devoted a full hour broadcast to the subject as the crisis was raging.



It was a time when scandalous reports were being published daily in The Boston Globe, and Pope John Paul II had summoned all American Cardinals to Rome.



The crisis and scandal were spreading in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Latin America and other countries around the world.



Mouton headlined this special full hour broadcast of  CBS 60 Minutes presented by journalist Ed Bradley that was awarded the Emmy.



Journalist Ed Bradley referred to the 1985 document Mouton co-authored.



“That year, Ray Mouton and Father Tom Doyle gave Bishop Quinn (the special Vatican appointee) a confidential report which warned the Church that cases of pedophile priests are “arising with increased frequency” around the country, and could eventually cost the Church “one billion dollars.” Mouton and Doyle asked Bishop Quinn to take their report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.” 

Responding to a question of Ed Bradley in this broadcast, Mouton said . . .



“Today (2002) the Vatican is taking the position that this is all new to them. Well, Father Gilbert Gauthe was the very first case in the United States, the whole world, and the Vatican appointed (Bishop) AJ Quinn in writing to monitor, assist us in managing the developing crisis, and report to the Vatican through the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C.  The Vatican appointment of Bishop Quinn is in writing, and that document puts the Vatican’s fingerprints on this problem in 1985.”

Mouton also said . . .



“In the beginning, I thought my client, Father Gauthe, was a single aberrant individual. Within a year, I believed that there was a small cult of pedophiles within the Catholic Church in this country, and now I believe it’s a culture, a clerical culture within the Church – that it is that widespread.’​



CBS News – 60 Minutes, June 12, 2002

 

 

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Order IN GOD’S HOUSE

A novel by Ray Mouton

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