Saints’ alleged involvement in church abuse coverup undermines trust

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Saints’ alleged involvement in church abuse coverup undermines trust

The symbol of the New Orleans archdiocese

The symbol of the New Orleans archdiocese

Courtesy of Cecilia Hammond

The symbol of the New Orleans archdiocese

Courtesy of Cecilia Hammond

Courtesy of Cecilia Hammond

The symbol of the New Orleans archdiocese

Owen Scher, Staff Reporter

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While reeling from yet another early playoff exit, Saints fans and members of the New Orleans community were given far more serious bad news in late January. The lawyers representing a group of men filing a sexual assault claim against the Archdiocese of New Orleans made some heavy accusations against the Saints.

The accusations stem from the list released by the Archdiocese of New Orleans identifying substantiated claims of sexual abuse from people associated with the church.

The initial list was released in 2018 and included 57 former members of the New Orleans Archdiocese. But many victims and members of the New Orleans community maintain that the church underreporting the number of perpetrators.

Over the last 20 years in particular, the Catholic Church has received backlash for consistently having issues with accurately reporting sexual misconduct by clergy members. Unfortunately, the Saints appear to have inserted themselves in the middle of this conflict.

In court papers, lawyers for the men stated that “The Saints appear to have had a hand in determining which names should or should not have been included on the pedophile list.”

Why would a professional sports franchise use their resources to assist a religious organization? Community outreach is an obvious explanation, given that the church has a hand in many charitable organizations serving children and the poor in New Orleans. After all, Saints owner Gayle Benson is a devout Catholic and is close friends with Archbishop Gregory Aymond.

But with such a delicate issue, what possible reason would the Saints have to intervene, particularly on the behalf of the accused? It certainly is bad optics for a team that has dealt with scandals in the past, such as Gregg Williams and Bountygate.

To make matters worse, the Saints have even been accused by the alleged victims of helping the church suppress allegations and protect potential abusers. If true, it is unconscionable that a professional sports franchise was attempting to subvert justice in their own community.

The organization stated that it advised  the church to be “direct, open and fully transparent” in regard to the claims of abuse. However, the Saints’ attempts to suppress the release of their emails to the public foster some uncertainty.

Perhaps the team simply does not want to be brought into the limelight in relation to this story, but it’s far too late for that. If anything, attempting to hide their emails will negatively affect public opinion regarding their involvement.

It is too early to determine whether or not the Saints have in fact committed all of these misdeeds. Regardless, the relationship the Saints have with the Archdiocese is not advisable for a professional sports organization trying to be seen in a more positive light. 

The Saints should assist organizations that support the city of New Orleans, but running PR for sexual assault perpetrators? Even if that is the extent of the Saints’ involvement, it seriously calls into question the leadership and direction of the organization.

As the off-season goes on, the facts of the case will become clearer. The Saints are the pride of New Orleans, and it’s time those running the organization started acting like it.