Three Lawtell men say they were abused by a priest as young boys

St. Landry Parish

LAWTELL, La. (KLFY) — A law effective this summer now gives adults who were abused as children, up to three years to take legal action against accused offenders and any child abused since the new law’s effective date, has no time restriction.

The timing of the renacted (r.s. 9:2800.9 under house bill 492) legislation coincides with three men from St. Landry Parish who are looking for closure in what they say was years of abuse by a priest of a catholic church where they served as altar boys.

Lawtell, Louisiana is a small rural community in St Landry Parish and is home to just over 1200 people.  It was formed in the early days of the 20th century, so it’s filled with history, it’s peaceful, but there’s also a dark secret that’s been hidden until now.

In describing what happened to him, Mark Batiste says, “As a child I was scared. When I first told my mom, what happened I thought she wouldn’t believe me.” Batiste, his brother and one other are revealing allegations of sexual abuse by a priest, Fr. James Queren who was pastor of this church in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Batiste says, “I was too scared to come in the house. I didn’t want my parents to know. My daddy always did tell us that the priest was next to God.”  The backyard of their home has a gate that gave them access to the priest’s home only about 200 hundred yards away. Their parents didn’t worry about their safety, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

Batiste mother Elma says, “Like everything was okay, but it wasn’t.  He was doing things with my children and that’s why he would come here regularly to try to cover it up.”

Batiste says of the priest, “He used Jonathan to recruit other boys from around the neighborhood and the things he was doing with us he called it wrestling, it was a form of wrestling and he would make the guys do each other.”

Another alleged victim who wanted to remain anonymous for our report says he left the catholic faith because of what happened. He recounted some of the alleged events saying, “Maybe eight to 10 guys were there, so going in it was good. He would feed us, give us candy and play.  It was good times and then night came, and he would take a couple of guys to the back to sleep and I was one of them and he did some pretty tough things to us in the back.”

Mark’s brother Jonathan said, “When the priest separated us, I was in one area, Mark was in another area and we didn’t have that part of the relationship anymore where we were just together-even if we were together…in a way like that.  We were all in the same room, but we were separated and we have had a terrible relationship and I’m thankful today because you know, we got a couple, about a year or so that we’re coming together praise the Lord.”

Jonathan said his relationship with his brother was strained for nearly 40 years because of what happened in that house and now they’re uniting to bring these allegations to light.

In 2018, Mark and his mom filed a complaint with the Diocese of Lafayette against the Josephite priest. Mark said they received acknowledgement of their complaint in an email from the diocese and said they have not heard from anyone since. Mom Elma said, “The Bishop was supposed to call me also because they were going to call the Josephites and I have his card I keep it in my wallet, but he has never called me.”

A law effective this summer now gives adults who were abused as children, up to three years to take legal action against accused offenders and any child abused since the new law’s effective date, has no time restriction.

These three men say the timing could not be better. Mark says “They (the diocese) knew what he was doing because they moved him around from Lawtell to New Orleans. he even called for my family to bring me to new Orleans….this is something that shouldn’t happen to nobody.”

We contacted the Diocese of Lafayette and they answered right away. Below is their response.

“The Diocese of Lafayette has been made aware of allegations of sexual abuse of minors against the late Fr. James W. Queren, SSJ, who was not a Diocesan priest but who was a member of the Society of St. Joseph, a religious order commonly referred to as the Josephites.  The misconduct allegations date back approximately 40 years.   When the Diocese of Lafayette receives allegations involving a member of a religious order, rather than a Diocesan priest, the Diocese forwards the allegations to the Provincial Superior of that order, because the priest would have served under the order’s leadership and authority.  When the allegations involving Fr. Queren were received by the Diocese in 2018, the information was forwarded to the Josephites’ leadership.

In response to the individuals who contacted KLFY, the Diocese of Lafayette has made contact with the Josephite Order leadership, who have informed us they are currently deciding what is the appropriate response at this time.  Since 2018, there has been a change of leadership in the order.  The Diocese of Lafayette was unaware until contacted by KLFY that these victims were never contacted by the Josephite Order.

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