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The sexual abuse scandal in Savannah diocese is a significant episode in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah United States of America.

Handling by bishop Frey

Bishop Gerard Louis Frey was criticized for his handling of sexual abuse cases. In 1985, Frey expressed his regret about his management of Gauthe's case, saying, "I ask for the prayers and understanding of all our people and of all people of good will of every faith and belief. I deeply regret and am distressed by the suffering that has taken place because of the tragic events in the diocese over the past several years." [1]

Gilbert Gauthe affair

In 1974, the local ordinary assigned Rev. Gilbert Gauthe as a Boy Scout chaplain despite the fact that Gauthe had already come to Frey's attention for having earlier molested altar boys.[2] He stripped Gauthe of his priestly duties after more allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced in 1983.[3] In total, the diocese settled for more than $20 million in lawsuits involving Gauthe.[4] Gauthe was later jailed for violating the Texas sex offender registration law and released in April 2010.[5]

Refusal to cooperate with police

According to a Georgia sheriff's sergeant, bishop Raymond W. Lessard refused to cooperate in a sex-abuse investigation of Brown in 1986. The sergeant said Brown could not be questioned because Lessard "sent him to an unknown location for an indefinite amount of time." At no time did Lessard provide police with any helpful information pertaining to Brown.[6]

Failing to apologize to victims

Lessard has been criticized for failing to even apologize to the known victim of Waylon Brown's abuse, which took place on his watch.[7]

4.24 million dollar settlement

In October, 2009, the diocese of Savannah paid $4.24 million to settle a lawsuit which alleged that Lessard allowed a priest named Wayland Brown to work in the diocese when Lessard knew that Brown was a serial child molester who posed a danger to children. A second case was settled in 2016 in Savannah as well, also among other victims there are two possible victims who committed suicide in later years. [8]



  1. Blanchard, Kevin (2007-08-17). "Former Bishop Frey dies at age 93". The Advocate.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Ibid
  6. Prosecutors Say Georgia Diocese Was Warned about Abusive Priest February, 2003
  7. St. John's Valdosta Blog. Another Reason to Give the Bishops Annual Appeal October, 2009
  8. Diocese to pay $4M for abuse October 29, 2009
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