21 June 2021
To: Federal and Louisiana State Law Enforcement
From: SCSA (www.scsaorg.org)
Re: Church Cover Up
Please allow this sentence to make it crystal clear that all documents referenced within this letter are one hundred percent available to the public upon request, and to users of court software receiving alerts and updates to ongoing court cases.
One of the tactics used by the Catholic Church to hide horrific details of abuse has been keeping depositions and testimonies sealed under an order from a judge (or in this case, judges). In the Spotlight team investigation in Boston, journalists began an earnest and vigorous campaign to unseal these documents and bring them to the conscious of the general public. Also, the team argued that if these documents contain any evidence of felonious activity or the cover up of such crimes, those documents CANNOT be tagged as “confidential.” To explain the reasons why a priest’s personnel files are kept sealed and not released to law enforcement or the public, Archbishop Aymond has repeatedly stated that a company can’t just release personnel records because they are private. The following analogy comes to mind when I think about this response. I am a teacher and if I were accused of raping, molesting or sodomizing a student (a child), does any logical person believe that my personnel records would (or could) be tagged confidential, therefore off limits to law enforcement? For that matter, if ANY employee of any company in the country were accused of sexual misconduct, not only would his personnel records be accessible to the law, all of his personal matters, including family history, social media accounts, and any evidence of a sexual nature would be exposed.
In the archdiocese of New Orleans’ ongoing court proceedings, the church is doing the same thing that the Boston archdiocese did in 2002. How can anyone believe we have made any progress at all or that the church has changed its policies and procedures concerning pedophiles and child rapists? The same tactics are being used 20 years later.
In December of 2020, one of the most heinous criminals within the church was deposed in federal court. Dozens of survivors came forward to share their awful memories of abuse at the hands of Father Lawrence Hecker. The federal court agreed to allow the deposition of Hecker, and possible future depositions of the few priests still alive, including one of my abusers, Paul Calamari. These men are still alive, walking the streets, and are still a very real threat to young children who come in contact with them.
Following the deposition of Hecker, attorneys for the victims wrote a motion to unseal the deposition of Hecker and make public this predator’s response to the claims of rape. I will quote a few lines from said motion that would have allowed the public access to the transcripts and the video of the questioning.
“The road to get this issue before a court for review has been a long and tortured one, as was the process of both scheduling and taking the deposition of Hecker. It took four judges-a state district court judge, a federal bankruptcy judge, a federal district court judge, and a federal magistrate judge, to free up these documents and take Hecker’s deposition. Deposing Hecker was like pulling impacted wisdom teeth with a pliers covered in Vaseline.” It continues:
“This is one of the most consequential pleadings all three undersigned counsel ever have filed, and it is expected that it might be for the court as well. This case relates to matters of utmost public concern, the sexual abuse of JW Doe and many other children by a living, diseased pedophile (Father Lawrence Hecker) and the cover up of that abuse by the archdiocese of New Orleans.”
The attorneys then explain exactly what the deposition would show to the public.
“This deposition and the documents attached to it establish grotesque felonies committed by Hecker that systematically were covered up by the archdiocese for several decades. Evidence of undisclosed felonies never can be designated as “confidential.” Yet, the archdiocese was asking. “Maybe counsel for the archdiocese gambled that this court would not read the deposition and/or the referenced documents, but there is MORE than ample evidence and “support” that both Hecker and the archdiocese concealed multiple felonies perpetrated by Hecker against children. It is even more disingenuous for the archdiocese to contend that child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is NOT a matter of public concern.”
Of course the archdiocese would want this matter as far away from the public as possible. So, the federal court listens to the deposition of Hecker, including the more than ample evidence and support that both Hecker and the archdiocese knew about his abuse for decades. Then the court read and considered attorneys’ motion to unseal the documents pertaining to the deposition. Following are some excerpts from the ruling of a federal magistrate judge on the motion to unseal.
“For the reasons stated in detail on the record, the court denies to grant plaintiff the relief he seeks at this time. With regard to the Hecker deposition transcripts, there is no protective order yet in place, despite the court’s previous order that the parties submit one. Accordingly, the court will now issue a protective order sua sponte. Similarly, there has been no designation of confidential testimony, as was also ordered by the court. Any effort to unseal testimony at this point is therefore premature.”
Let's interpret the term sua sponte. In legal realms, it is an order issued “of one’s own accord, voluntarily. It describes an act of authority taken without formal prompting from another party. In slang terms, the court is going “commando” or completely on its own. The ruling continues:
“More importantly, questions and testimony germane to the claims against Hecker and the archdiocese are so intertwined that they are insusceptible of meaningful disentanglement, which, in the case of a motion to unseal, would be necessary in light of the limited lift-stay order issued by the bankruptcy judge.”
In essence, the judge is stating that the bankruptcy proceedings and the criminal/civil proceedings cannot be separated. How is this even a logical statement? One court is dealing with depositions from creditors and debtors, hashing out financial issues. The other is listening to depositions of child rapists and the systemic cover up of the abuse by the archdiocese. If presented with the opportunity, I would ask the judge how these two cases could be any more different, any more easily separated by a reasonable citizen? One case is the positive end of a battery, while the other is the negative. They are polar opposites. One involves dollars and cents, the other child rape and cover up. The ruling moves on:
“Counsel were provided additional guidance on the conduct of any depositions that may take place in this or the companion case and directed to certain authority that should guide their interactions and conduct therein.”
If you missed the language in this excerpt, the court now refers to the two cases as “companion” cases. Again, how do a bankruptcy case and a criminal case become companions? There is another misguided issue of interest at play here. The federal magistrate judge that heard and allowed the deposition of Hecker and possibly other defendants, honored a stay order issued in bankruptcy court, a considerably lower hanging fruit on the judicial hierarchical tree. The motion to unseal was not granted, even though the federal court heard and listened to the deposition of Hecker, and must have witnessed the “more than ample evidence and support that both Hecker and the archdiocese concealed multiple felonies perpetrated by Hecker against children.” Did the court miss this evidence during the questioning? Did they ignore the evidence? Why did the court choose to seal the deposition if it indeed presented ample evidence of felonies?
Law enforcement authorities are privileged to read “sealed” documents for the purpose of prosecuting the admission of a crime. We are asking the US attorney, the Louisiana State Police, and the attorney general to read the transcripts from Hecker’s deposition and decide whether the evidence and support is more than ample to show that multiple felonies were committed and subsequently covered up by the archdiocese. Even better, unseal the deposition completely and allow the public to decide if the facts are ample and believable.
These matters continue to occur behind closed doors, out of the public’s eyes and ears, which is exactly the result wished for by the church. Well, keeping secrets is what landed the church in such disarray, yet they continue to hide evidence, deny wrongdoing, and lie about the actual events that took place. How can the public make an objective, logical, and rational decision as to the level of corruption involved if the documents and testimonies remain sealed and locked away from public view?
In conclusion, there are two Louisiana state laws which are relevant to this case. The first is obstruction of justice, which in the case of crimes against children, has no statute of limitations. My question is simple and straight forward. Isn’t the act of sealing these documents considered obstruction of justice in and of itself, essentially shielding documents that could present clear evidence of sexual crimes against children by priests and the cover up by bishops, cardinals, and popes? Also, being an accessory after the fact is a crime in Louisiana. Bishops are persons who assisted someone who has committed a crime, with the knowledge that the person committed the crime with the intent to help the person avoid arrest and punishment. The description offered here actually sounds like the job description of obedient bishops around the globe.
The sealing of these depositions and transcripts and videos is unacceptable at least, and illegal at worst. The judicial system is applying the same secrecy rules used by the church for decades. Survivors, current Catholics, and the public all deserve to know what these predators say in their defense and how they explain their actions. Secrecy will not and should not be a tactic used by the judicial system of the greatest country in the world. Let’s push for court transparency, especially when it involves the abuse of our single greatest asset…our children! Release the documents.
Respectfully and with gratitude,
Public Information Officer
Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse
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