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NEW ORLEANS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A notorious New Orleans priest recently removed from ministry admitted to reporters that he sexually abused male adolescents and added that clergy sex abuse is no longer much of a problem in the Church.
On Tuesday, Father Lawrence Hecker acknowledged to reporters for WWL-TV in New Orleans and the British newspaper The Guardian that he did, in fact, sexually abuse male adolescents.
The admission broke Hecker's pattern of denying misconduct. This was the first time he ever admitted to wrongdoing.
The Guardian reporter recently obtained the New Orleans archdiocese's secret personnel file on Hecker. The file includes a 1999 statement Hecker provided in which he admitted to engaging in "overtly sexual acts" with at least three underage boys who were around 15 years old at the time.
The WWL-TV and Guardian reporters went to Hecker's residence to confront the ephebophile about the revelations in the secret personnel file.
After being asked if some of the sexual acts with minors covered in the file happened, Hecker stated, "Evidently, yes."
The WWL-TV reporter then asked, "Do you remember these people that you describe here? The names are redacted, but you say that there were 'overtly sexual acts' with this person, but that person was 100% willing, and he was 15–17 years old — lived in St. Francis of Assisi parish."
"Yes," Hecker replied.
In 1988, one boy's parents reported Hecker to Abp. Philip Hannan, long before Hecker retired in 2002. The reporter asked, "Why didn't they do anything then?"
"Evidently, Abp. Hannan trusted me that when I said that it was true that I wouldn't be in any such circumstances [again]," Hecker responded.
The reporter then asked, "Do you believe that the Catholic Church is doing everything it can to protect its parishioners?"
"Oh, right now, yeah, sure," Hecker answered.
The reporter followed up, asking, "But what about back then? I mean, 1999 wasn't that long ago."
"But we didn't know then what we know now," Hecker claimed.
The story is making a stir in New Orleans. Many news outlets are covering the abuser's admission, including CBS, Nola and The Guardian, which, as mentioned, participated in the investigation. Hammer WWL Radio also interviewed the WWL-TV reporter, who explained Hecker was one of the first cleric sex abusers to respond so openly when confronted with evidence.
The president of Survivors of Child Sex Abuse, Dr. Richard Windmann, told Church Militant, "Hecker is a textbook example of the Catholic playbook for covering up child sex abuse."
He explained that the archdiocese always knew Hecker was guilty.
"I am in regular contact with New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams, and he has pledged to me that he is working earnestly to form a grand jury to indict Hecker," Windmann continued.
"Greater than a millstone be hung around his neck," he added, referencing Luke 17:2, in which Our Lord asserts, "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones."
New Orleans' archbishop, Gregory Aymond, has an established track record of clergy sex abuse cover-up.
Earlier this month, the Guardian released a report exposing Aymond's disregard for the archdiocesan board of advisors established to determine the credibility of clergy sex abuse allegations. Aymond inherited the board of advisors when he became archbishop in 2009.
The report notes, "The archbishop on six different occasions disregarded findings of credibility that would have led to accused priests being outed as abusers to a region with about 500,000 Catholics, essentially going against the advice of his board."
In 2018, Aymond stated, "We have published the names of all those ... whom we saw substantiated sexual abuse."
"My promise is transparency — is to be transparent now and in the future," he added.
The Guardian's report further noted a 48-page memo that attorneys of clerical sex abuse survivors prepared based on documents received through the archdiocese's bankruptcy case filed in 2020. The British newspaper stated it "learned that the administrative actions outlined in it do not emulate the promises of full transparency that the worldwide church has made, particularly as it relates to claims of clerical abuse."
Regarding Lawrence Hecker, Aymond knew the priest was facing at least nine allegations of sex abuse. When one of Hecker's accusers went to the Gretna police in 2012, the police informed the archdiocese. An aide wrote a memo to Aymond that stated, "This is the ninth allegation we have on record against Larry Hecker."
But the archbishop waited until 2018 to acknowledge that Hecker was guilty of homosexual predation and abuse of minors. The archdiocese later reported the ephebophile to law enforcement, but only mentioned one of the seven cases Hecker divulged at the time.
In the WWL-TV and Guardian encounter with Hecker, the reporter asked if the abuser thought he should face any criminal punishment.
"I really can't answer that; I just don't know," Hecker responded.
But Hecker insisted he is a changed man.
"Not one chance in a million that anything like this would ever happen again," Hecker stated. "Obviously, I am truly repentant."
The reporter then asked, "Do you feel that you have changed or that you have just kept yourself out of those situations?"
"Well, I have kept myself out because I've changed," Hecker replied.