“Hundreds of thousands of people have been deeply wounded and even destroyed. This plague of destruction would have continued unchecked had there been no Ray Mouton. In 1985-1986, Ray and I worked together daily when I was a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy. Ray fought fiercely to save children from the church. This is much more than a novel. It is an answer to the painful “why?” Why did this happen? Why did bishops put image above innocent children? I remember all Ray gave of himself, how he fearlessly spoke truth to power, and was never intimidated by the formidable opposition he encountered.”
-- Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, Leading Authority On Clergy Abuse
This morning while making coffee the face of Ray Mouton popped into my head. I'm highly honored to know this man. Two years ago around this time, I was reading Ray's novel, In God's House. My subsequent review of the novel is reprinted below.
In 1984, Ray was the lawyer chosen by the state of Louisiana's Catholic Church hierarchy to defend the first priest ever to be charged in secular court with child molestation. Looking back on the perspective of the present day, we obviously know what became of all this, and that Ray's appointment with destiny was the first tiny peek inside a truly massive (and ongoing) scandal.
I wasn't expecting to be moved to such an extent by Ray's book, but I was -- and remain so. For more background, go here: Church abuse case haunts lawyer who defended priest, by Evan Moore (Daily World in Opelousas LA)
... Mouton no longer attends services — not since the case of the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, whose horrific crimes against children in the Diocese of Lafayette set off a wave of scandal in 1985 that reached across the USA all the way to the Vatican; not since Mouton defended Gauthe and almost ruined his life in the process.
Now, he enters churches only to light candles, candles for the children.
At Ray's page on Facebook, he still provides regular updates about a sad story seemingly without end, but his Thanksgiving message yesterday was decidedly upbeat.
It is with great gratitude that I reflect on the support all of you who follow this page have for the victims, the truth, and justice.
This has been a good year for the cause for all who stand on the side of people who were victimized as children and stand on the side of truth.
Thirty-one years ago when this journey began for me, Fr. Tom Doyle, and Fr. Michael Peterson, there were less than a handful of people on the right side of history.
Today, millions of people are on the right side of history, and progress has been made and will continue to be made.
Each of you should embrace yourself on this day and be grateful for the courage God has given you to confront the most powerful institution on earth on behalf of those who once believed they were powerless.
A lot remains to be done. A lot will be done. Justice will be done.
My review was published on January 30, 2014.
ON THE AVENUES: Ray Mouton and his novel, In God's House.
By virtually anyone’s reckoning, Ray Mouton’s non-fictionalized life story would have been noteworthy, even without The Case.
A native Louisianan with deep and colorful roots in the state, he lived the All-American dream and became a highly proficient, well-paid lawyer with all the trappings of success. Then, one day in 1984, Mouton was asked by the Catholic Church to defend an ordinary parish priest who’d gotten himself into a bit of a fix.
It proved to be more of a problem than anyone knew at the time – that is, anyone except the Catholic Church itself, because Ray’s appointment with destiny turned out to be with a wayward cleric named Gilbert Gauthe, who was a serial sexual abuser of young boys, and whose trail of tears had been repeatedly covered up by his superiors.
Now, for the very first time, the family of a victimized boy was refusing the usual hush money and insisting on their day in court, and the ecclesiastical higher-ups grudgingly realized they had no choice but to hire a mouthpiece.
Ray Mouton was that lawyer, and the rest is history.
In initially studying the case, Ray brought along his own prejudices. He’d been brought up solidly Catholic, and at the start he assumed that Gauthe was the exception to the rule, and a lone bad apple. Obviously, the priest needed professional psychological help (a concept barely registering with the Church at the time), and the best way forward seemed to Ray an insanity plea for his client, with time served in therapeutic custody, allowing for the children to become adults before Gauthe was again seen on the street.
But as Ray peeled back the dusty layers, the shape of things began changing. The Church hierarchy knew all about Gauthe, and had moved him from parish to parish to stay one step ahead of his irredeemable proclivities.
What’s more, there were numerous other pedophile priests in Louisiana alone, and it began to dawn on the lawyer that his own back yard was the metaphorical tip of an iceberg, one that we have since seen stretching to the horizon, as far as the eye could see … and the official policy of the Roman Catholic Church, whether written or whispered, was to deny the extent of the problem, to bury it, and to seek to preserve wherever possible its own autonomous sacred position beyond the arm of the secular.
Shortly thereafter, amid a pea soup fog of legal warfare, Ray joined forces with two reforming priests, and they conducted their own investigation of the molestation scandal, presumably with the blessing of the Church. Predictably, their findings were suppressed, and it is likely that their chief opponent at the Vatican was none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, who subsequently became Pope Benedict XVI.
Ray’s personal life became a casualty of these escalating revelations. It’s true that as a bayou Icarus, he might have crashed to earth in any event, but when he arrived at this intersection with history, the narrative current swept him along with it. He lost family, possessions and career. Significantly, he reclaimed his own life over a period of years living abroad, and then later took back the pedophile priest story in the form of a novel, In God’s House.
In God’s House, while a fictionalized version of real-life events, contains more than mere germs of overall truth. European reviewers (currently there is no American publisher) have called it a page-turner, and compared the novel’s tone to that of John Grisham’s legal thrillers, and these descriptions are apt. Perhaps more importantly, the novel is a Hollywood screenplay waiting to happen.
Destinations Booksellers might be able to score you a copy of In God’s House, and if not, it can be ordered on-line. I recommend it highly.
I’ve referred to the author as Ray because I know him, albeit casually.
In 1998, I checked off a personal bucket list entry by arriving in Pamplona, Spain, a day before the annual commencement of the Festival of San Fermin, and then remaining all the way through the revelry, until it was over -- eight days of hard partying even if one refrains from running with the bulls.
I probably wouldn't have gone to Pamplona -- wouldn't have tripped over the comatose bodies of Eurotrash, wouldn't have eaten Pyrenees trout stuffed with ham, wouldn't have drained bottles of anise-like Pacheran -- if not for my cousin Beak's trailblazing.
When Don landed his tenured position in Florida and started attending the festival on a yearly basis in the early 1990s, he immediately fell in with the anglophile expatriate coterie and met numerous and memorable aficionados, including a fellow American, Ray Mouton, author of a very well-regarded book about San Fermin.
That's why I have the pleasure of counting Ray among my acquaintances, and although I have not been to Pamplona for a while, and Ol' Paco still lives abroad, he's every bit as interesting as his press clippings suggest.
In 1998, on the festival's final night, with the week-long lunacy gradually settling into a post-coital reverie, the three of us had a quiet dinner for the first time in eight days, and then went for a cool, breezy walk at sundown atop the old wall that protects the old town from incursions from the valley below. Ray's arm was in a sling, because during the encierro, he'd been trampled -- not by a bull, but by another human being. The tales of his life's adventures were vastly entertaining, and it was an unforgettable end to an all-in.
I trust the novel helped exorcise a demon or two, assuming any still remained; Ray’s a tough hombre. Nowadays, you can follow him at Facebook and receive regular updates on pedophile cases, sadly as yet unfolding. He is a pitiless commentator as it pertains to the complicity of adults, and a tireless advocate for youthful victims.
One of the key passages in Ray’s novel comes when the fictional attorney is asked to describe his analysis of the situation. He replies simply: There are criminals, and there are children. As long as this continues to be the case, it is a case that Ray will continue fighting. I hope our paths cross again, some day.