Saints official gave earlier help to New Orleans Archdiocese on sexual abuse crisis

Saints helped Sinners CoverUp

Title: Saints official gave earlier help to New Orleans Archdiocese on sexual abuse crisis

Author: Mike Triplett

Publisher: ESPN

Date: 17JUN2020

METAIRIE, La. — The lawsuits calling for the public release of emails between the New Orleans Saints and the local Roman Catholic Archdiocese have mostly been put on hold since the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy last month, but new details in a Sports Illustrated report on the case confirm that a team official began offering public relations counsel to the church regarding its sexual abuse crisis months earlier than initially reported.

The Saints and owner Gayle Benson have long had a close relationship with the Catholic Church and Archbishop Gregory Aymond, and they have maintained that they did nothing wrong by offering PR input to the archdiocese on how to work with the media, suggesting the church offer full transparency while releasing the names of clergy members who have been credibly accused of abuse.

Attorneys for plaintiffs suing the church, however, have accused Saints officials of aiding the archdiocese in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes” by helping to shape the church’s response.

Although most of the reporting has centered on the assistance the Saints offered the church when it publicly released the names of clergy members in November 2018, an attorney representing the Saints told Sports Illustrated that senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel offered advice to Aymond earlier that summer when the church fell under heavy media scrutiny.

“Mr. Bensel did receive a call from the Archbishop during the summer asking Mr. Bensel for his opinion on the best way to handle the press and the negative series of media articles that were being written,” attorney James Gulotta told Sports Illustrated via email. “Mr. Bensel suggested that the Archbishop call for and meet with the local newspaper’s editorial board.”

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