BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Baton Rouge Diocese is accused of covering up for sexual abuse. This lawsuit is the first clergy sexual abuse claim since the diocese released a list of 46 clergy members in 2019 — which the lawsuit says are credibly accused.
Jessica Arbour is representing a victim who says they were abused when they were a teenager by a priest in Baton Rouge.
“At the time that the diocese was formed there were priests that were known to be problems within the archdiocese in New Orleans that were dumped in Baton Rouge,” said Jessica Arbour, Horowitz Law.
The lawsuit alleges that Father John Weber abused the then 13-year-old for a year in the 1970s. Father Weber retired in 1945 and died in 2000.
“It’s a gambit,” said Arbour. “These are men who struggle every single day with what [happened] to them and the shame and the guilt and the embarrassment. It takes so long for them to come forward.”
Weber was a priest at the New Orleans Diocese in 1945 where he was accused of abusing at least one child there. He then became a priest at the Baton Rouge Diocese in 1961.
“He never should have never been in a parish to have access to a child,” said Arbour.
Arbour says this case comes to light after Louisiana lawmakers passed new laws allowing victims of child sexual abuse to file a lawsuit despite now being an adult.
“In some ways, Louisiana is ground zero for the sexual abuse crisis,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Baton Rouge said of the lawsuit when asked: “We do not comment on pending litigation.”
The lawyer representing the victim says more cases of abuse are being filed in the coming weeks. She expects about six to 10 similar lawsuits to be filed across the state.