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LAFAYETTE, La. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A priest convicted of abusing an underage boy is being released from prison after serving only one year of his nearly decade-long sentence.
On Monday, St. Landry Parish Judge Alonzo Harris granted Michael Guidry's request to be out of prison on a $10,000 bond during his appeal to Louisiana's appeals court. Harris did not, according to the judge, pose a flight risk or a danger to the community — conditions that must be weighed by the court.
In 2018 Guidry, the pastor of St. Peter's Church in Morrow, Louisiana, pleaded guilty to giving alcohol and molesting Oliver Peyton, a parish altar boy and son of a Lafayette diocese deacon in 2015.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years' probation in April 2019 but appealed the sentencing in June, asking for a reduced sentence.
According to the lawsuit, Guidry hired Peyton in 2015 — when he was 16 years old — to do chores at his house where he would be given alcohol. It was there that Guidry "started hugging [him], rubbing his stomach and keeping his hand on [his] back."
Eventually, according to case records, Guidry gave Peyton "pure gin" until he passed out — eventually waking to find Guidry sexually assaulting him. Guidry apologized the next morning and attempted to call and text the victim despite being rebuffed.
Peyton stopped going to church and began drinking heavily, noted the lawsuit, which elaborated:
(The victim) was fearful of telling anyone what had happened to him and he began to drink heavily, causing deep concern with his parents and older brother. It got to the point that every time they confronted him about his alcohol problem (the victim) would get mad and leave, all of which caused a breach in the close and loving relationship he and his family had before (Guidry) came into their lives.
The diocese removed Guidry from public ministry as soon as a complaint was lodged against him, saying it "fully cooperated with law enforcement authorities during the subsequent criminal investigation," and that "all protocols of the diocese's Safe Environment program, which mandates zero tolerance of abuse of any kind, were strictly followed throughout the entire process."
It also noted: "We respect the victim's courage in coming forward in accordance with our Safe Environment policies, which encourage anyone who has information on any cases of abuse to come forward."
The diocese agreed to pay for the victim's counseling but the family launched a civil lawsuit in August 2018 after alleging a "high diocesan official" threatened therapy payments would stop if the family filed a lawsuit.
In another twist, a luncheon in honor of Fr. Guidry was held at the rectory upon his departure from the parish. When it was publicized, the vicar general, Msgr. Curtis Mallet, issued a letter to Peyton, apologizing for the luncheon, saying "I should have given greater respect to the matter of the luncheon, which has been the cause of so much grief, had a horrible symbolic impact and is a source of division."
He continued, "I now realize that the luncheon, which happened at the time Fr. Guidry moved his belongings, represents to you a terrible disrespect and insensitivity to the trauma inflicted upon you in the very place where people shared a meal together."
The diocese of Lafayette was part of the 2002 Boston Globe investigations into the cover-up of clerical sex abuse.
Gilbert Gauthe, a priest, was charged in 1985 with abusing 34 boys. For more than a decade, he had raped and abused his young male victims. Parents lodged complaints and the dioceses paid them off, shuffling Gauthe from parish to parish.
But in 1983, one family refused to take the money and went public, making that one of the first cases of abuse the Boston Globe journalists would use to show the massive cover-up of sex abuse endemic in the Church hierarchy.