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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Saints accused of assisting Catholic church in ‘concealing’ sex abuse crimes

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The New Orleans Saints have found themselves at the center of a troubling legal battle involving the Catholic church.

According to a report from Jim Mustian of The Associated Press, the Saints are seeking in court to keep the public from seeing hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives helping the Archdiocese of New Orleans with damage control in the church’s sexual abuse scandal. Attorneys who represent roughly two dozen men suing the church say they uncovered 276 documents through discovery that show the Saints helped the Catholic church with its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes.”

The attorneys wrote in the court filings that the Saints “should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia.” Attorneys for the team have disputed the claims and called them “outrageous.”

Saints owner Gayle Benson and her late husband Tom have donated millions of dollars to the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and Gayle maintains a close relationship with New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Attorneys for the men suing the Saints say multiple team personnel, including Senior Vice President of Communications Greg Bensel, advised the church via team email accounts on how to deal with the fallout from members of the church being accused of sexually abusing young boys.

Attorneys for the Saints say the team executives were doing the exact opposite of what they have been accused. They admit the team advised the church to publish a list of credibly accused clergy, but they claim that was so the church could be transparent and called the correspondence “the opposite of concealment.”

The legal battle involving the Saints stems from lawsuits against former schoolteacher and deacon George F. Brignac, who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after being accused of sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy. He had been accused of abusing several other boys prior to that dating back to the 1970s.

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