The New Orleans Saints are facing increased scrutiny for their alleged coordination with the Archdiocese of New Orleans after recent court filings said team executives helped the Church with damage control surrounding accusations of clergy sexual abuse.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for the Saints were attempting to conceal hundreds of emails between the team and Archdiocese from public view.
The communications were unearthed during the discovery phase of a civil suit filed by a former altar boy who claims he was molested by George Brignac in the 1970s. Brignac is under criminal indictment in a separate child-rape case.
Publicly, the Saints acknowledged their organization’s close relationship with the church, and said when church officials approached their communications team for help they simply advised them to “be direct, open and fully transparent while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted.”
They added that the organization’s legal action was not about concealing information from the press or public, but rather ensuring they “apply the normal rules of civil discovery.”
But plaintiffs’ attorneys Richard Trahat, John Denenea Jr. and Soren Gisleson said the team is understating its involvement.
They wrote in court filings that upper-level Saints executives helped shape the list of credibly accused clergy members the Archdiocese released in 2018.
Kevin Bourgeois leads the New Orleans chapter of SNAP, an organization of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. He said the Saints’ mixed messaging is consistent with the church’s pattern of concealing clerical abuse.
“To use a football metaphor, it’s part of their playbook, just like it’s the church’s playbook to say one thing in public and do something [else] in private,” Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois is one of many survivors of clerical abuse who pressed his claims outside of the court system--he reached a settlement with the Archdiocese last year.
“It’s important to note that the Archdiocese — they don’t want to go to court,” Bourgeois said. “They’d rather go into private mediation because then it’s not public record.”
Bourgeois praised the unnamed plaintiff’s approach, saying the documents his lawsuit could produce would be helpful for other victims litigate their claims of abuse.
“If I had to do it over again I would do exactly what these guys are doing,” Bourgeois said.
The Associated Press is petitioning the court to make the emails public, arguing that releasing them is in the public interest. Both the Archdiocese and the Saints oppose the news organization’s involvement.