Louisiana police obtain new search warrant in New Orleans Archdiocese abuse investigation — By: Catholic News Agency

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CNA Staff, Apr 25, 2024 / 11:30 am (CNA).

Louisiana State Police have obtained a new search warrant to collect documents from the Archdiocese of New Orleans as part of an ongoing investigation into Church abuse in that state.

State police spokesman Jacob Pucheu confirmed to CNA on Thursday that the bureau had obtained the warrant as part of its investigation into “numerous complaints of child sexual abuse” leveled at the archdiocese. The inquiry was first launched in 2022, he said.

“As part of the ongoing investigation, on Monday, April 22, 2024, SVU investigators obtained an additional search warrant to collect information and documents from the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” Pucheu told CNA.

“The archdiocese is cooperating with investigators to fulfill the terms of the search warrant,” he said. “This investigation remains ongoing with no further information available at this time.”

Pucheu declined to directly provide a copy of the warrant, saying that “since it is under investigation, it is not readily available.”

The archdiocese itself did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning.

The warrant comes as state police are investigating retired priest Lawrence Hecker, who was indicted in September on felony charges related to allegations that he raped an underage teenage boy in the 1970s.

A team of forensic experts this week said Hecker, who is 92, is presently unfit to stand trial due to short-term memory loss, though the experts said the accused priest could stand trial at a later date.

Prosecutors earlier this year had vowed to proceed with Hecker’s trial amid doubts of his competency. Orleans Parish First Assistant District Attorney Ned McGowan promised to “roll him in on a gurney” to try him.

The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020, with Archbishop Gregory Aymond pointing to financial pressure from clergy sex abuse claims as the driving force behind the reorganization.

“The prospect of more abuse cases with associated prolonged and costly litigation, together with pressing ministerial needs and budget challenges, is simply not financially sustainable,” the prelate said at the time.

Last year the archdiocese said it would ask “parishes, schools, and ministries” for monetary contributions in order to protect diocesan assets during the bankruptcy proceedings.

The archbishop had previously said that “parishes, schools, and ministries” would not be affected by the filing.

But “this is no longer the case,” Aymond said last year, “because of many external factors now facing us, including the fact that the law governing the statute of limitations has changed to now permit the filing of past abuse claims in civil court.”

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