Memo to NOLA judge, businessman & NFL team: “Lie down with dogs. Get up with fleas.”

new orleans saints sexual abuse

Memo to NOLA judge, businessman & NFL team: “Lie down with dogs. Get up with fleas.

Some say that’s an old Blackfoot Native American proverb. Others attribute it to a British author, James Sanford.  Regardless of its origin, this simple phrase is sound advice. Too bad that so many seem to ignore it.

Take top officials with the New Orleans Saints football team. And a Louisiana news outlet. And a federal judge.

All three have either admitted – or are accused of – advising Bishop Gregory Aymond and other Catholic officials on disclosures about predatory priests. So say attorneys representing clergy sex abuse victims, in court filings and media interviews. (Victims who’ve sued the church claim the NFL team’s public relations department helped the archdiocese, which released a list of accused clergy members in 2018, cover up abuse.)  And now at least two of them – the football team and the news outlet – have been dragged  into litigation and sullied in media coverage about this.

Consider these excerpts from recent news accounts of this controversy:

“(Saints owner) Gayle Benson says her staff simply advised the church to be open and truthful, but the plaintiffs say the emails will show that the team was more deeply involved. . .”

“Times Picayune-New Orleans Advocate co-owner John Georges may have participated in behind the scenes communications involving the Archdiocese’s release of credibly accused pedophile priests.”

“U.S. District Court Judge Jay Zainey tells Fox 8 he arranged a meeting with Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Saints communications executive Greg Bensel prior to the 2018 release of the Archdiocese’s list of clergy credibly accused of child sex abuse.”

They thought they were doing good. And now they’re under fire.

We at Horowitz Law see this often. Good people, religious people, powerful people see a beloved institution taking heat. They want to help. They offer advice.  At best, they feel good about volunteering their expertise. But very often they get ignored and become frustrated.  And at worst, they get burned, and eventually find themselves accused of ‘aiding and abetting’ corrupt school or church or university officials (and sometimes dragged into litigation).

This isn’t a new phenomenon.  Remember Frank Keating of Oklahoma? He’s the former prosecutor and governor tapped years ago to head the bishops’ National Review Board to look at abuse and cover ups in the Catholic church.  Keating ended up being forced out.

Remember Judge Anne Burke of Chicago? She was Keating’s co-chair.  She ended up quitting, largely in frustration.

—-How about California psychologist Jim Jenkins? Or Joelle Casteix, a brave survivor of an Orange County Catholic school teacher (and later an Adrian College professor) named William Hodgman.

Both Jim and Joelle volunteered on their local diocesan abuse committees and quit feeling manipulated.

—-How about the alarming case of Fr. John E. Leonard, accused of abusing in the Richmond diocese? Just weeks after the 2002 Dallas charter and its pledges of reform, several lay people who’d volunteered for then-Bishop Walter Sullivan’s lay abuse panel resigned in protest because the bishop ignored their recommendations.

We could go on and on. Despite good intentions, many experts and Catholics have been wounded after offering their knowledge, time, credentials and connections trying to help corrupt bishops who later ignored, criticized, deceived or embarrassed them.

So here’s some unsolicited, non-legal, common sense advice to those who love their embattled alma mater or church or Scout troop (or an accused predator, whether an “average Joe” or a big shot like Bill Cosby, Theodore McCarrick or Harvey Weinstein):

If your loyalty or generous spirit tempts you to lend a hand or your experience to institutions and individuals that may have concealed crimes against kids, resist that temptation.

Instead, protect yourself, and protect the vulnerable. Lend your expertise to institutions and individuals who have suffered such crimes.