NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The New Orleans Saints have issued a statement in response to reports that the team’s public relations staff assisted the Archdiocese of New Orleans in matters relating to the Archdiocese’s ongoing sex abuse scandal.
News of the connection between the Saints and the Archdiocese surfaced this week in an Associated Press story detailing the team’s involvement.
THREAD: @AP's @JimMustian reports that the New Orleans @Saints are trying to stop the release of emails that allegedly show team executives doing damage control for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese amid its sexual abuse crisis.https://t.co/oxwnOJ3FJQ
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 24, 2020
Nearly 300 emails between members of the Saints PR staff and the communications department of the Archdiocese have become a factor in a lawsuit filed by about two dozen men claiming abuse at the hands of clergy, according to the AP.
That lawsuit, Doe v. Archdiocese, is currently in the discovery stage.
While the Archdiocese declined to comment on the issue, the Saints released a statement confirming that Greg Bensel, Senior Vice President of Communications for the New Orleans Saints, did in fact assist the Archdiocese with messaging before the Archdiocese released a list of clergy who had been “credibly accused” of the sexual abuse of children.
“While there is current litigation relative to the New Orleans Archdiocese and clergy sex abuse, our comments are limited only to the scope of our involvement. The New Orleans Saints organization has always had a very strong relationship with the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese reached out to a number of community and civic minded leaders seeking counsel on handling the pending media attention that would come with the release of the clergy names in November of 2018. Greg Bensel, Senior Vice President of Communications for the New Orleans Saints, was contacted and offered input on how to work with the media. The advice was simple and never wavering. Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted. The New Orleans Saints, Greg Bensel and Mrs. Gayle Benson were and remain offended, disappointed and repulsed by the actions of certain past clergy. We remain steadfast in support of the victims who have suffered and pray for their continued healing.”
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The statement goes on to say that the Saints “have no interest in concealing information from the press or public.”
Lawyers for the organization are “merely” requesting “the court to apply the normal rules of civil discovery to the documents that the Saints produced and delivered to Mr. Doe’s counsel.”
The NFL has yet to issue a statement on the team’s connection to the Archdiocese and the clergy sex scandal.
In early November, 2018, the Archdiocese released a list of nearly 60 priests, deacons, clergy, and religious order priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of a minor.
In a letter released along with the list of accused clergy, Archbishop Gregory Aymond instructed any victims who have not yet come forward to contact Victims Assistance Coordinator Br. Stephan Synan, F.M.S. at (504) 522-5019.