LAFAYETTE, La. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bishop is decreeing he will not ordain any seminarian who is associated with a lay group that is investigating and exposing corruption in his diocese.
Within days of a report showing Bp. Douglas Deshotel of the diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, is knowingly leaving a priest in ministry he admits should "not be alone with children," he issued a decree threatening all men in formation to disassociate with the group that exposed him.
On Thursday, Bp. Deshotel issued two decrees to men in the seminary and diaconate programs in the diocese warning them he would kick them out of formation if they are found associating with the Society of St. Peter Damian (SSPD).
In one memo, Bp. Deshotel wrote, "Any seminarian known by me to be associated with or be a member of the Society of Saint Peter Damian shall be dismissed from the seminary and no longer be a student for the diocese of Lafayette."
He further warned that he wouldn't ordain any man found to be associated with the group in both memos: "Any candidate for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Lafayette who is associated with or is a member of the Society of St. Peter Damian will not be called by me to receive Holy Orders."
Church Militant spoke with Peter Youngblood and Quinn Hebert of the Society of St. Peter Damian who said this was the first time they were aware of Bp. Deshotel making a formal threat.
Hebert explained Bp. Deshotel warned them last year, just after they publicly asked him to work with independent investigators, that slander was a mortal sin and without it being confessed and absolved, they would "risk losing everlasting life at the final judgment."
"The SSPD is happy to meet with anyone and would prefer to discuss any perceived disagreements with the individuals who take issue with our work," Hebert said. "If Bp. Deshotel believes that we have lied, we invite him to contact us with this grievance and we would be willing to issue a retraction if we have made a mistake."
Bishop Deshotel's actions show an inconsistency in the way groups are treated, and Youngblood pointed out that "not even 30 minutes after the publishing of his warning and refusal to respond, he sent an email to us requesting a meeting. This duplicity is actually the reason why we deemed it necessary to record the meeting of November 2018."
Youngblood also explained that priests were regularly associating with a convicted priest, Fr. Michael Guidry, before he was sent to jail.
"That there was no public warning sure makes it seem like certain pastoral care is extended to clergy which is not also extended to the laity," he added.
"It would appear to be a double standard if the diocese will allow priests to dine with convicted sex abusers, but disallow them from associating with a group calling for preventative action against abuse," Hebert said.
Last August, area Catholics were outraged after they learned a luncheon was organized for Guidry after the allegations were reported.
Guidry was convicted for abusing a teen while he was the pastor at St. Peter's Church in Morrow, Louisiana. The victim claims he was paid to do chores for Guidry when he was 11. Eventually, in 2015, when the victim was 16, Guidry gave him straight gin to drink and he passed out. He awoke while Guidry was molesting him.
According to the lawsuit filed by the family, the diocese was paying for the victims counseling but when the family brought up the possibility of a lawsuit, a priest, working as a "high Diocesan official," threatened to stop paying for the family's counseling.
Members of the clergy are not the only ones in the diocese being threatened. Church Militant spoke with another source in the diocese who is considering coming forward with evidence of financial corruption.
They haven't spoken out publicly because of the vindictive nature of the bishop and his supporters.
Having worked with the Church for over two decades, Church Militant's source explained that it is physically and emotionally painful to witness the corruption at all levels of the Church and be powerless to change it. The source explained, instead of taking whistleblowers' reports of wrongdoings seriously, they are kept silent with threats of being fired.
"They think they're not only above the law but above the Word of God," the source said. "They're going to have to face the fires of Hell from stealing all the joy from those who are called to work in the Church."
They want the Church to protect whistleblowers, similar to the Dallas Charter, and hope others will have the courage to come forward with what they know about the corruption.
"This is the greatest work we are doing for God's congregation," they said. "We're called to do this work."
Church Militant asked an experienced canon lawyer whether Bp. Deshotel's decree is canonically valid.
He answered, "The decree appears to be invalid because it does not give any reason for its issuance," referring to canon 51, which requires that any decree "should express, at least in summary form, the reasons for the decision."
In response to the question of what they would want to say to Bp. Deshotel, Youngblood replied:
I've wanted nothing more, since my conversion in 2009, than to put myself on the line for a bishop who behaves with the kind of honesty, integrity and abandonment to the Gospel that is becoming of a successor of the Holy Apostles; one who completely casts aside the duplicity and high-handedness which characterizes the way the world rules over its subjects, and instead commends himself to each man's conscience in self-effacing interest of leading people to the crucified Lord, ready himself to be crucified with Christ. But all I have heard is language aimed at deflecting legal claims and avoiding liability, which commends itself only to the worldly standard of bloated and toothless policies which exist only to placate the media.
I would actually say this to every bishop around the world: If you would only remember the call of the Apostle, to be transfigured to the crucified Christ, to be hated by the world for Christ's sake, to be despised as He was, to be considered the least of all, and all for the sake of leading souls into that same participation by the ministration of the mysteries, the faithful would follow you even unto martyrdom and death.
Church Militant reached out to the diocese of Lafayette but has not heard back by press time.