Attorneys: Saints 'Had a Hand' in Shaping List of Clergy Accused of Sex Abuse

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2020

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, including Kevin Bourgeois, left, John Gianoli, Richard Windmann, and John Anderson, hold signs during a conference in front of the New Orleans Saints training facility in Metairie, La., Wednesday Jan. 29, 2020. SNAP is demanding that Gayle Benson, the owner of the NFL Saints and NBA Pelicans, release all emails where the Saints provided public relations assistance to the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans regarding clergy sexual abuse cases. The sign
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

Attorneys representing alleged sexual abuse victims say the New Orleans Saints helped local Catholic Church authorities decide who would be included on a list of "credibly accused" clergy members released in 2018.

"The Saints appear to have had a hand in determining which names should or should not have been included on the pedophile list," attorneys representing "around two dozen" men in a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of New Orleans wrote in a court filing, per Jim Mustian of The Associated Press on Thursday.

"In order to fulfill this role ... the Saints must have known the specific allegations of sexual abuse against a priest ... and made a judgment call about whether those allegations by a particular victim against a named priest were, in its opinion, legitimate enough to warrant being included on the pedophile list."

The Saints have maintained their involvement with the church was minimal and only related to public relations.

"Never did the Saints organization offer advice to conceal information," the Saints said in a statement. "In fact, we advised that as new information relative to credible evidence about other clergy came to light, then those names should be released and given to the proper authorities."

The New Orleans Archdiocese also denied the Saints' role went beyond PR help.

Saints owner Gayle Benson maintains a close friendship with the New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. According to one alleged email exchange from 2018, Saints senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel was involved in a conversation about "removing priests from the pedophile list."

On Friday, Mustian reported the Saints and the archdiocese had filed to prevent emails between the two parties being released to the public.

The initial list of clergy members included 57 people credibly accused of sexual assault. The Associated Press report indicated that number was underestimated by at least 20 names.

The NFL has not commented on the Saints' potential involvement with the Catholic Church.