Treme priest suspended over child rape allegation sues his accuser for defamation | Courts

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The former pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in Treme, who was suspended in January following an allegation that he raped a boy, has filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser in federal court.

In the filing, The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah not only dismisses the rape claim made against him as “false,” but he argues that the accuser should pay him damages for unjustly harming his reputation, invading his privacy, and intentionally causing him emotional distress.

Desiree Charbonnet, an attorney for the alleged victim, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. But in the past, she has said her client’s allegations “were very specific and substantiated.” 

A Gretna City Council member revealed that he was sexually preyed on in grade school by one of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ most notorious …

The alleged victim filed a lawsuit in January claiming that he met Asare-Dankwah in 2008, when he was 10 and the priest was stationed at Broadmoor’s Blessed Trinity Catholic Church during a previous assignment.

Shortly thereafter, he asserts that he was raped by Asare-Dankwah during an overnight retreat in Alabama. He also said Asare-Dankwah beat him the next morning while condemning homosexuality as a sin.

Almost immediately after that suit was filed, Asare-Dankwah responded with a full-throated denial, saying — among other things — that he had never even been to Alabama. The accuser subsequently amended his lawsuit to allege that the retreat, rape and beating took place in Ponchatoula.

In his filing Monday, Asare-Dankwah claims he was in his native Ghana at the time of the purported retreat.

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Despite his denial, New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond indefinitely removed Asare-Dankwah from public ministry pending an investigation into the claims. Archdiocesan attorneys also moved for damages from Charbonnet and other attorneys on the case, arguing that they willfully violated a ban on initiating litigation against the church, which automatically took effect when the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2020.

Roughly 400 people who allege that they were sexually preyed upon by local priests and deacons went to bankruptcy court and sought compensatio…

That prompted the lawyers to remove the archdiocese from the lawsuit, leaving the priest and an insurance company as the remaining defendants. The amended case against Asare-Dankwah was unresolved as of Tuesday, and his filing this week essentially serves as a countersuit.

Asare-Dankwah’s suit dedicates lengthy passages to the career he’s led as a priest after moving to New Orleans from Ghana in 1989 to study at Xavier University. He was ordained in 1994.

He said New Orleans’ perennially high levels of gun violence pushed him to start the Osagyefo Institute of Personal Development, calling it an attempt to transform the city’s “culture of death into a civilization of love.” He also touted administrative roles he’s held in schools at Resurrection of Our Lord, St. Monica and St. Peter Claver, which was purchased by the Josephite Fathers in 1920 to minister to the area’s African American population.

“For the past 26 years, (Father Asare) has been a servant-leader, mentor, motivator, advocate and educator,” the suit said.

Most clerical abuse-related lawsuits center on allegations against priests and deacons. However, occasionally, priests removed from ministry in the wake of molestation complaints file countersuits claiming they’ve been defamed.

In New Orleans, judges have often dismissed such defamation-related claims, though in at least one case nearly two decades ago the matter ended with the accusers retracting their molestation allegations.

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