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NEW ORLEANS — A Gretna City Councilman reveals he was sexually abused by a priest within the Archdiocese of New Orleans decades ago.

Councilman Jackie Berthelot testified Monday during a house committee hearing in Baton Rouge.

Legislators are considering a bill which would give child molestation victims more time to file a lawsuit. Berthelot only decided to come forward after receiving counseling and gaining courage.

“It took me 50 years to admit to anyone what happened to me,” said 66-year-old Berthelot.

The councilman said he was abused by Monsignor Lawrence Hecker. Berthelot was a fourth grader at St. Joseph School in Gretna and served as an altar boy at St. Joseph Church.

“Little did I know that I was being reeled in by a pedophile when all of this comes to light will be seen as one of the worst pedophiles maybe this country has ever seen,” Berthelot said.

Berthelot said he was abused not only at church, but at parties at Notre Dame Seminary. The alleged abuse has scared him for life.

“I have cried many times alone in my room wherever I was on business,” said Berthelot. “These feelings of reliving in my mind were just too overwhelming.”

House Bill 492 is sponsored by New Orleans representative Jason Hughes.

The bill would give victims 25 more years to file suit; increasing the age from 28 to 53.

“These things, when you’re in our situation, you suppress them and then you get married or your life changes and they come back,” Berthelot said. “It’s a life sentence. It’s a life sentence that I feel that I will serve.”

A number of other sex abuse survivors testified, not just those with accusations against the church.

The bill has advanced to the full house for consideration.

As for Hecker, he was removed from ministry in 2002 and is on the Archdiocese list of credibly accused priests.

More info on Lawrence Hecker:
Date of Birth: 1931
Ordination: 1958
Estimated Timeframe of Abuse: late 1960s; 1970s
Allegation Received: 1996
Removed from Ministry: 2002

Pastoral Assignments

  • Christ the King, Terrytown
  • Holy Family, Luling
  • Holy Rosary, New Orleans
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, New Orleans
  • St. Anthony, Luling
  • St. Bernadette, Houma
  • St. Charles Borromeo, in residence
  • St. Frances Cabrini, New Orleans
  • St. Francis Xavier, Metairie
  • St. Joseph, Gretna

Read the updated Clergy Abuse Report here