New Orleans priest publicly admits to sexually abusing minors
After years of denials, a notorious former New Orleans church leader admitted in an interview that he had sexually harassed or molested several teens during his career.
CBS affiliate WWL-TV In New Orleans Lawrence Hecker was being interviewed by The Guardian about a statement he made to New Orleans church leaders in 1999 when he made his confession.
Hecker, 91, became a priest in 1958. According to a timeline compiled by WWL-TV, he used the position to abuse or harass minors over the years.
In 1988, reports of his actions reached the Archbishop of New Orleans, Philip Hannan. Hecker convinced Hannan that he would “never face any circumstances like that” again and did not face any consequences until 1999, when persistent reports against Hecker led the Archdiocese to send him to a psychiatric facility outside of Louisiana. There, he was diagnosed as a pedophile, and the facility recommended that he be banned from working with minors or other “particularly vulnerable persons,” according to a personnel file reviewed by WWL-TV.
A 1999 complaint also led to his deposition, in which Hecker admitted to having committed “overt sexual acts” with three underage boys, and said he had close relationships with four others that lasted into the 1980s.
When asked if he did the actions set out in the statement, Hecker told WWL-TV “Yes” twice. His confession was recorded on video.
Hecker said he was “really repentant” and “can’t answer” whether he thought law enforcement should pursue the case against him. Hecker was never criminally prosecuted, according to WWL-TV, but he was the subject of an investigation by the New Orleans District Attorney’s office.
Even after his release from the psychiatric hospital, Hecker continued to work in the church, saying he believed he had been authorized to do so. And in 2000, he was assigned to Saint Charles Borromeo in Destrehan, a small town in Louisiana. WWL-TV reported that the church has an elementary school attached.
A man recently alleged that Hecker had strangled and raped him. Hecker denied the allegations.
Hecker retired in 2002, after the Catholic Church adopted reforms after it emerged that the institution was protecting priests..
“As with all cases, OPDA will use all relevant and admissible evidence of guilt to bring justice to the victims,” Keith Lampkin, chief of operations and external affairs for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, said on Wednesday.
The fallout from Hecker’s actions continued into the 2000s.
During a 10-year period beginning in 2010, the diocese paid at least $332,500 to reach out-of-court settlements in five cases alleging sexual assault by Hecker, according to WWL-TV.
Despite this, the Archdiocese of New Orleans never told churchgoers and other community members what Hecker suspected until 2018, when a list of priests and deacons considered reliably accused predators was released under public pressure.
WWL-TV said the diocese continued to pay Hecker retirement benefits through 2020.