Gayle Benson: Speculation of Saints involvement in clergy sex abuse list 'sickens' her
At the end of January, the Associated Press brought to light that the New Orleans Saints were going to court to protect hundreds of e-mails from the public that allegedly showed public relations damage control for the area's Roman Catholic archdiocese. Since then, more details have surfaced regarding the team's involvement, which accused the Saints of allegedly helping shape the clergy sex abuse list.
On Monday, team owner Gayle Benson released a very lengthy statement that clarified her views and answered some questions about her relationship with the New Orleans' Roman Catholic Church Archdiocese.
"Neither Tom Benson nor myself, or any of our organizations have ever contributed nor will ever make payments to the Catholic Church to pay settlements or legal awards of any kind, let alone this issue. To suggest that I would offer money to the Catholic Church to pay for anything related to the clergy-molestation issue sickens me."
Attorneys of the plaintiffs suing the church have accused Benson and team executives of using their email accounts to advise the church on messaging to use that would have softened the impact of the archdiocese's release of a list of clergy members accused of sexual abuse. Later this month, there will be a hearing to determine whether or not those e-mails will be made public. There's also a Thursday hearing for The Advocate and three local New Orleans television stations (WVUE FOX, WDSU NBC, WWL CBS) regarding access to be present for that Feb. 20 hearing.
Benson added that she was proud of the role they played, and would do things over again to help the Archdiocese. She cited that her and Tom Benson have been devout Catholics for their entire lives, meeting at the Cathedral. They've also been very public in supporting the Catholic church, making many charitable donations. Benson also brought up that their relationship with the past Archbishops and the Archdiocese dates back 50-plus years.
"We are proud of the role we played and yes, in hindsight, we would help again to assist the Archdiocese in its ability to publish the list with the hope of taking this step to heal the community. In addition, we already turned over every email to the court and plaintiff attorneys."
Benson also said, "I remain repulsed by the actions of past clergy in this abuse scandal. I pray for the healing of the victims and I am hopeful this terrible time will provide a path to eradicate this behavior in the Church. That is why we wanted to help. It is time for healing, which was the purpose of our involvement."
Of the alleged involvement, the biggest name that came up was Greg Bensel, the team's senior vice president of communications. Benson said that he was asked if he would help the Archdiocese prepare for the media relative to the release of the clergy names involved in the abuse scandal. Ahead of the the Nov. 2, 2018 release of clergy names, Bensel reportedly met with the Archbishop and communications staff in the weeks leading up to it.
"Greg informed me that his recommendations were consistent with the Archdiocese and included: be honest, complete and transparent; own the past wrongs and find a solution to correct them and then define those solutions that are in place now to protect victims; be a leader in the Church by being the first Archdiocese in the country to release the full list of names, release all of the names of clergy that have credible evidence against them, regardless of whether they are male/female, dead or alive; and make sure that all law enforcement are given these names prior to the Archdiocese releasing them so they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
"Finally, Greg recommended that, with the goal of transparency, the Archbishop would meet with each media member in person, answering any question. No one associated with our organizations made recommendations or had input on the individual names of those disclosed on the list, rather our suggestion was to be completely transparent."
Benson closed out her statement by saying that she will never be deterred in helping people in need, and that the list of those in need is long.
"More often than not, we try to help or assist in finding a solution. Are we perfect? Of course not, but we sincerely listen, we sincerely care, and we sincerely love. It is who we are. Tom Benson instilled that in our organization. I will always continue his legacy."
The NFL has yet to comment on this matter, and it is unclear as to whether or not the Saints will face any discipline for their involvement in it.
Read past articles on the story
- Saints going to Court to protect emails - John Hendrix