To the credit of the new bishop, Michael Duca, today the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge published a list of 37 Baton Rouge area clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse over the decades. Many of them are dead, including Father Clyde Landry. He was the Catholic priest in my hometown during my childhood. He was young then, and known for being active with the youth. I wasn’t Catholic, but I used to go on Catholic youth outings with him, and to CYO dances he would sponsor. He disappeared one day. Never knew why.
In fact, he was a child molester. From the diocesan website:
The image cuts off. It just says that he was laicized in 1999, and lives at the Servants of the Paraclete, a molester priest colony in New Mexico.
(He ministered there for a few years, dying of a heart attack in 2003. He was in his early 50s. In 2011, Father Gordon MacRae, a Catholic priest who is in prison for molestation — he protests his innocence, and the Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz has written a lot in his defense — wrote something about how Father Clyde, out of his own brokenness, ministered to him in prison. People are more than the sum total of their sins, remember.)
If Clyde Landry had allegations against him in four parishes, how many kids did he molest? How many did he molest before he arrived in St. Francisville I know two boys that I grew up with, both altar boys when Landry was the local priest, who I believe were almost certainly molested by him. Nobody told me this, certainly not their family members. Back in 2002, when I was researching the Catholic sex abuse scandal, I came across Landry’s name in connection with Servants of the Paraclete, and my blood ran cold. The information I found did not say that he was a child molester, but I knew what that facility was, and the information said he had been treated there.
Then, the broken lives of those two boys, who are now men around my age, made sense. Their self-destructive behavior as adults followed a pattern common in child sexual abuse victims. They both came from very good families, faithful Catholic families, families who encouraged their sons to serve at the altar. I may never learn for sure if these men were Clyde Landry’s victims, and I don’t need to know. But I’m certain they were. If you’ve ever read about the lives of victims, or even just watched Spotlight (the Phil Saviano character), you know what I’m talking about.
A friend from the Baton Rouge diocese texted me about the news:
Just awakens the rage all over again every time it gets down to the individual level.
It’s so easy for these things to fall into abstraction: “huh, only 37” I mutter to myself…
Then you remember that that’s a nightmare for a real person, and their family.
But I know, it’s all just rabbit hole stuff, right Cardinal?
He’s referring to Cardinal Blase Cupich’s dismissal of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s call for Pope Francis to deal with systemic sexual corruption at high levels of the Church as going down a “rabbit hole.” Francis made Cupich one of the four organizers of next month’s Vatican global bishops’ summit on sex abuse.
Now the Pope is trying to deflate expectations for the summit. Of course he is. Just keep kicking that can down the road, Holiness.
A few minutes ago, I looked up online one of the boys I am confident was a victim was molested by Clyde Landry. I haven’t seen his face since he was a kid, and wondered what he looks like today. I found two different mugshots of him taken by police in two places where he got in trouble for substance abuse. He looks angry and defeated, but I can still see in that face the beautiful boy he was before he served at the altar with good ol’ Father Clyde, who was so good with the young people back when nobody imagined that the village priest might rape their sons.
UPDATE: This sounds like a good event:
How will the Church be healed? Engage w/some of the best Catholic minds in the country including Cardinal DiNardo @USCCB, @bronwenmcshea, Carlos Eire @Yale & @CatholicUniv prof. to discuss historical & theological background of the crisis #HealingtheBreachhttps://t.co/9xwPuU9a2K pic.twitter.com/1BpY6s4VOp
— IHE (@HumanEcologyCUA) January 22, 2019