Executives for the New Orleans Saints are going to court in order to keep hundreds of emails from the public that show team exec’s engaging in public relations damage control for the city’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese in order to help them control the fallout from an ongoing sexual abuse crisis.
Lawyers for the men suing the Archdiocese claim that multiple Saints’ personnel, including Benson and Saints Senior VP of Communications, Greg Bensel, used team email to advise Church officials on how to soften the fallout of the archdiocese release of clergy members accused of sexual abuse.
The Associated Press reports that lawyers for the two dozen men suing the archdiocese obtained 276 documents that show the NFL team aiding the Archdiocese in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes.”
Attorneys for the men suing the archdiocese stated that “Obviously, the Saints should not be in the business of assisting the Archdiocese, and the Saints’ public relations team is not in the business of managing the public relations of criminals engaged in pedophilia. The Saints realize that if the documents at issue are made public, this professional sports organization also will be smearing itself.”
The Saints Organization has since denied any allegations that they assisted the Archdiocese in covering up the church’s crimes. In a statement released on Friday, Jan 24, representatives from the Saints said that members from the Archdiocese reached out to the NFL team to seek out any advice on how they could handle media attention following the 2018 release of clergy members who had been accused of sexual abuse.
Representatives from the team stated that “The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted,” and added that they had “no interest in concealing information from the press or public” and that it “merely requested the court to apply the normal rules of civil discovery.” Attorneys for the Saints argued in court that the documents following the 2018-2019 incident were intended to be private.
While both the Saints Organization and the New Orleans Archdiocese is fighting the release of the documents, the Associated Press filed a motion with the court that supports the release of the documents “as a matter of public interest.”
The NFL has not responded to the situation yet. NFL policy states that everybody associated with the league must refrain from “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL.
Ties between the Saints Organization and the Archdiocese include the devoutly catholic Saints and Pelicans owner, Gayle Benson, who maintains a close friendship with New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Benson has donated millions of dollars to Catholic institutions in the New Orleans area. On the other hand, Aymond is a regular at Saints and Pelicans games and charity events Benson holds.
The fight over the emails is connected to multiple claims filed against George F. Brignac, a former schoolteacher, and deacon, who was removed from the ministry in 1988 after he was accused of molesting a 7-year-old boy at Christmas party. That accusation followed other claims that he had molested other boys, including one case in 1978 which resulted in his acquittal of three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.
A former altar boy stated that Brignac had repeatedly raped him in the late 1970s from the ages of 7 to 11.
However, last month, Brignac, 85, was indicted on a rape charge that could keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. Brignac is included on the Archdiocese list of “credibly accused” clergy.