In addition to those laicized after a canonical penal process, priests can also be laicized at the discretion of the Vatican if they request it, or if the diocesan bishop makes such a request under limited circumstances established by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy in 2009.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans did not offer specifics about its efforts to laicize priests accused of abuse.
At least seven diocesan priests on the archdiocese’s list of 72 credibly accused clergy are still living, according to the New Orleans Advocate. This list does not include accused religious clergy who are under their religious orders’ jurisdictions.
In the New Orleans archdiocese, benefits to accused priests had included retirement benefits, until a federal judge overseeing its Chapter 11 bankruptcy said that the archdiocese could only pay for health insurance.
Archbishop Aymond held a day of prayer, fasting and atonement on Friday, Oct. 23 and encouraged the Catholic faithful to participate, especially those feeling wounded.
“We know that it’s been a very challenging time in our archdiocese, for a number of reasons, especially because of the news we have received recently about two of our priests who have not fulfilled their vocation,” he said in an Oct. 19 video at the archdiocese’s YouTube channel.
“It is important that we come together as a community of faith and pray for the wounds of our Church: personal wounds and the wounds that so many are feeling at this time, with a sense of disappointment and betrayal,” he said.
“I’m asking you specifically to enter into fasting if you wish to, to enter into prayer, and we are providing for you a Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which helps us to get into the heart of Jesus, to give him our suffering, and to ask him for the healing and peace that he alone can give,” said the archbishop.
“Let us also pray for all the victims of abuse. They need our prayers and support as we reach out to them,” he said.
On Oct. 16, Aymond met with all the archdiocese’s priests regarding the scandal caused by the two priests.
The Council of Deans and the Presbyteral Council, both composed of leading priests in the archdiocese, wrote an Oct. 16 letter on behalf of the 335 priests of the archdiocese. While acknowledging that some have questioned his leadership, the letter voiced the clergy’s support for the archbishop.
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The letter gave an account of the meeting, reporting an “open and honest dialogue” with the archbishop followed by time together in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, then a collective renewal of their ordination promises by the archbishop and the clergy together.
“He exhorted all of us to pray regularly for victims of sexual abuse. At the end of his remarks, all of us present stood in unanimous support of Archbishop Aymond,” said the letter, which the archdiocese carried on its website.
“We emphatically support Archbishop Aymond and his leadership of our local church,” the priests’ letter continued. “Archbishop Aymond is a dedicated, faithful, and holy priest of Jesus Christ. He has always faithfully served the people of God throughout his priesthood.”
“While the archbishop did not create the problems of sexual abuse, he has always courageously addressed the issue,” said their letter. They characterized Aymond’s decision to publish a list of credibly accused clergy as a “bold step.” In their view, the archbishop has acted quickly to any new allegations
“While the last few years have been difficult, we believe that his leadership is helping to shed light on the darkness of the past, to heal past wounds, and to renew the Church in New Orleans,” said the letter.
“Although a small number of priests have betrayed us and you, we commit ourselves and our lives wholeheartedly to the mission of Jesus Christ made present in the Church,” said the priests. “Be assured that the Church cannot and will not tolerate any sexual abuse or misconduct on the part of any cleric.”