Archdiocese of New Orleans Forced to Turn Over Emails — By: Church Militant

NEW ORLEANS ( – The second-oldest diocese in the United States is facing another legal challenge in its ongoing bankruptcy bid.

Judge Meredith Grabill

A federal judge recently ruled the archdiocese of New Orleans must turn over emails between its employees and a public relations firm to attorneys representing victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The archdiocese has claimed that the emails and related attachments between it and The Ehrhardt Group “were subject to the same rules that govern attorney-client privilege and should remain private.” 

Attorney-client privilege is a legal concept that preserves the confidentiality of communications between a lawyer and client that relate to the client’s search for legal advice or services. The privilege does not apply to communications with other business advisors.

United States District Bankruptcy Court Judge Meredith Grabill, who is overseeing the bankruptcy case, determined the archdiocese’s communications with the PR firm did not fall under the proper legal scope for protection.

She wrote in her opinion:

The court finds that each of the documents was created in furtherance of public relations, an ordinary business practice and, therefore, none of the documents qualify as privileged under the attorney-work product doctrine.

While attorney-client privilege only applies to communications between an attorney and client, the attorney-work product privilege can include materials prepared by persons other than the attorney themselves, but only if the materials were created to prepare for litigation.

According to a report by, the emails in question “discuss [the archdiocese’s] communication strategy during a 14-month period that began shortly before the church filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2020.”

Over 300 people … have been accused of sexually abusing children or other vulnerable people.

Lawyers representing abuse victims have asked for copies of the emails since 2021 as part of their investigation of the case.


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In recent times, over 30 U.S. dioceses and religious institutions have filed for bankruptcy to address the deluge of national child sex abuse claims. Filing for Chapter 11 drastically curtails abuse settlements and cordons off financial assets that could otherwise go to victims.

High Stakes in The Big Easy

The 230-year-old diocese of New Orleans, currently led by Abp. Gregory Aymond, has gained a reputation for covering up the number of religious and lay staffers who have been named in abuse claims.

Abp. Gregory Aymond

According to documents obtained by The Guardian, in 2023, over 300 people employed by Catholic institutions in New Orleans have been accused of sexually abusing children or other vulnerable people over the last several decades.

The source notes, however, that the archdiocese itself only finds roughly a quarter of the allegations against its clergymen to be credible, a percentage it notes is “well below what research estimates is the norm for sexual abuse claims to be found false or unprovable.”

Around the same time that The Guardian article was published, reported “some 500 people” who “have alleged they have suffered sexual abuse by priests or other clergy.” 

The source also submitted an estimate of the millions of dollars that are at stake: 

If each of the claimants in the New Orleans case received $300,000 — which is slightly less than the average settlement in other bankruptcy cases — the cost to the local archdiocese, its apostolates and insurers would be $150 million. A figure closer to $100,000 for each claimant would yield an overall settlement closer to $50 million.

With the financial stakes so high, it’s not uncommon for public relations (PR) firms to get involved, says sex abuse victims’ advocate Gene Gomulka. Often, he explains, they try to make it appear allegations were unfounded or that accusers retracted their claims.

One Victim’s Anguish

Church Militant has been reporting on Aymond’s failure to document the full scope of sexual predation under his jurisdiction. In one 2023 report, abuse victim Aaron Hebert, who was molested in 1968 by a priest who is now 92 years old, decried how he was cheated when the archbishop filed for bankruptcy.

Aaron Hebert

“Two weeks before we were supposed to go to trial — that’s when Abp. Aymond pulled out the bankruptcy card. That was his trump card, and he played it,” Hebert remarked. “So everything ceased from the criminal investigation and criminal trial. And it became a bankruptcy civil case.”

“So from that moment on,” recalled Hebert tragically, “that’s when I kind of lost all faith in the Catholic religion.”

The PR firm Abp. Aymond hired to put a positive spin on what the public would know advertises itself as “protect[ing] our clients’ reputation … as if they were ours” and “crafting stories that compel, inspire and educate.” 

A local priest wishing to remain anonymous laments the turn of events that results in bankruptcies and the Church’s use of spin doctors

“Bishops today hire secular PR representatives to speak for them as compared to speaking for themselves,” he told Church Militant. “The gospel truth is no longer sufficient on its own.”

— Campaign 31877 —

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