BATON ROUGE – Bishop Michael Duca vowed transparency in an unprecedented, five-minute phone conversation with WBRZ Friday related to allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge and a plan to make records public.
“I don’t have a timetable right now. We are moving fairly quickly,” he said, “to come up with an idea of what [information will be released and how].” Duca said the diocese is working with the archbishop of New Orleans to make a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct. That list will eventually be revealed to the faithful and the rest of the public.
“Once we do… The rest will move fairly quickly,” Duca said.
Duca called WBRZ from Texas when he was told the WBRZ Investigative Unit and Chris Nakamoto were looking into long-secret church records related to lawsuit settlements over sexual abuse by priests.
“We don't want to hurt anyone in this process,” Duca said. “We are also making sure we aren't going to release information that will be abused or cause concern for any victims.”
WBRZ has found records of a handful of settlements related to abuse. Allegations date back to the 1970s – one so scandalous, an area high school named after a disgraced diocese priest changed its name.
Among the victims who have spoken publicly is Chuck Bishop. Bishop said he was molested by Christopher Springer, a former priest at St. Pius.
“My mom was going to confession with the same priest who had my pants around my ankles,” the former altar server told WBRZ’s Nakamoto in 2009.
That same year, Springer also confessed to WBRZ: “I'm sorry. I'll say that much... For doing what they said.”
Chuck Bishop said the church paid him an undisclosed amount of money for the abuse he endured.
Friday, the church said it was going to be transparent and hopes to have its plan for releasing records soon.
“We haven't come to a final conclusion on [how to release] that yet,” Duca told Nakamoto.
Duca’s perspective should be expected. He’s perceived to be one of the most willing leaders to confront the church’s sex abuse problems.
As he was being installed as the head of the local Catholic Church, The Advocate newspaper highlighted his compassion for victims and congregations.
“Duca is more willing to address the Catholic Church’s sex abuse problems than some others in the church hierarchy,” the paper wrote.
Duca was quoted: “We as a church are reeling with this revelation in more detail about the scope of the sexual abuse problem in our church… It’s one that strikes your heart and you just want to cry and get angry and yell out and you may wonder, can we come back from this? Is it hopeless?”
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