Priest Charged 24 Years After Admitting to Child Sex Acts

Lawrence Hecker indicted on rape, kidnapping charges in Louisiana
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2023 9:09 AM CDT
Priest Charged 24 Years After Admitting to Child Sex Acts
Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a live streamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Sunday, April 12, 2020.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

A 91-year-old retired Catholic priest, previously named by the Archdiocese of New Orleans as being "credibly accused" of sexual abuse, is now facing charges over the alleged sexual assault of a teenage boy in 1975. A Louisiana state grand jury has indicted Lawrence Hecker on felony charges including aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated crime against nature, and theft. He's accused of choking a teen unconscious under the guise of showing him a wrestling move before sodomizing him at a church attached to a Catholic high school. The boy, 15 or 16 at the time, and his mother filed a report with the school but nothing was ever done, the alleged victim's lawyer tells the Guardian.

This is one of several accusations against Hecker spanning his decades in the ministry. His abuse of teenage boys was "chronic and sustained," another lawyer for the alleged victim tells the New York Times. A man claims Hecker groped him and his classmates at St. Joseph's Catholic School outside New Orleans in the late 1960s while supposedly demonstrating a hernia examination, per the AP. Another alleged victim says Hecker had altar boys strip naked so he could inspect their bodies and fondle their genitals inside a changing room at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in 1983.

In 1999, Hecker admitted to the archdiocese that he'd engaged in "overtly sexual acts" with at least three boys in the 1960s and '70s and had close relationships with four other boys into the 1980s, the Guardian previously reported. He was sent to an out-of-state psychiatric treatment facility, where he was diagnosed as a pedophile. Yet he was allowed to continue his work in the ministry, including around children, until he retired in 2002. The archdiocese—which paid more than $332,000 to settle five sexual abuse allegations against Hecker—wouldn't publicly identify him as a suspected predator until 2018. However, a rep claims it "reported Lawrence Hecker to law enforcement authorities in different jurisdictions (multiple) times since 2002."

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In announcing the charges Thursday, New Orleans district attorney Jason Williams said "the fact that a child went to [his school] and told them what happened and nothing happened is a sin and a shame," per the Guardian. He added Hecker "should have been prosecuted a long time ago" but "we've had to fight very vigorously through the courts and behind the scenes for disclosure of any and all information and evidence." Now, "we're going to use every single word that has ever been uttered by Mr. Hecker against him," he said, per A lawyer for the alleged 1975 victim says the indictment came after his client sat for multiple interviews with authorities over the course of a year, per the Guardian. In Louisiana, there is no statute of limitations for rape cases. (More priest sex abuse stories.)

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