The Disturbing Case of Father Michael Guidry
The Lafayette diocesan priest is in prison for the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy – a crime he confessed to. He sought parole in August and the judge refused because the priest shows no remorse.
I don’t believe you, Father Guidry.
In our years of peak hands-on parenting, including a stint as foster parents, my husband and I encountered some seriously disturbed children. I had no idea that experience would prove so helpful in public life. For we were taught some very specific strategies for dealing with compulsive liars. We were taught not to argue with a child who lies. Why? Because if you do, they are very likely to tell new lies to cover up or justify the first lie. And every time they lie, they get sicker, which we don’t want. Instead, just say, “I don’t believe you.”
They will protest of course, and try to explain, rationalize, and lie some more. Don’t argue with them. You won’t get anywhere. Instead, just say, “But what do I think?” They will say either, “You think I’m lying.” Or “You don’t believe me.” Then all you say is, “Yes, that is correct. That is exactly what I think.” This way, at least, you’ve short-circuited the power-rush they get from the “duping delight,” the buzz they get from thinking they’ve deceived you.
This all came to mind when I had the opportunity to read the deposition of Father Michael Guidry, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana. He is currently serving a prison sentence for the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old boy. Father Guidry confessed to the crime. He is reportedly under house arrest.
Here is a rough outline of the publicly known facts: The young man, Oliver Peyton, was 16 at the time of the incident in April 2015. His father is a deacon of Diocese of Lafayette. He had served on the altar with Father Guidry. Young Oliver told no one about the assault for three years. Oliver finally told his older brother, on the eve of his wedding in June 2018. (Major life events, like a family member’s wedding or death, often induce sexual assault victims to finally tell someone.) Oliver reported that Father Guidry had served him so much alcohol that he passed out. When he woke up, he found his pants pulled down, and Father Guidry in the act of assaulting him.
The family filed a police report. Father Guidry confessed. He went to prison. He asked for reduced sentences. The request was denied.
The family sued the Diocese of Lafayette for damages. During the depositions for this suit, Father Guidry testified that he was giving Oliver spiritual direction. He testified that he gave Oliver alcohol to help him learn to drink responsibly. He testified that he told the boy not to tell his parents. He testified that he thought the boy was troubled and in need of counseling and support.
He claimed that Oliver initiated the sexual activity. He claimed that Oliver took off his own pants and began caressing the priest’s thigh. When asked, why he let this continue, the priest said he was curious to see what would happen. He said he was “dying of curiosity.”
Suppose Father Guidry is telling the truth that Oliver initiated the sexual contact, a point I by no means concede. Let’s say for the sake of argument, that he is telling the truth. I do not think Father Guidry realizes how damning his statements are.
He acts as if it is perfectly appropriate for a priest to give alcohol to a teenager. He seems to think telling the child not to tell his parents is perfectly fine. He reports his curiosity about a teenaged boy’s sexual intentions as if this is perfectly normal behavior for a man in his 70s.
Let’s be clear. A normally constituted man, cleric or not, would not behave in this manner. A normal man in his 70s would not give alcohol to a teenager and instruct the boy not to tell his parents. A normal father of any age, much less a man in his 70s, would not be overwhelmed with curiosity in the presence of a teenage boy taking off his clothes and behaving sexually. A normal man would put a stop to it immediately. A normal man would send the young man home and call his parents, “Your son is really troubled. I’m quite concerned about something he did tonight. He needs help.”
What if, on the other hand, Father Guidry is not telling the truth? What if he concocted a story that he thought would exonerate and justify himself?
If that was his intention, he failed miserably. His version of events makes him look very bad. If his lie was intended to help his case, it was a truly stupid lie, a pointless lie. Under the facts as he recounted them under oath, Father Guidry’s behavior was indefensible.
Shortly after this deposition, the Diocese of Lafayette settled with the parents. The settlement included a public apology to the boy and his parents.
In the meantime, Father Guidry asked for leniency. The judge at the parole hearing refused. The judge said that Father Guidry showed no remorse or had any sense that he had done anything wrong.
I’m not a judge or a canon lawyer. I don’t have the power or the authority to send or keep Father Guidry in jail or remove him from the priesthood. I do have the authority that comes from experience as a wife and mother, and the power that any layperson has.
His pointless responses reminded me of the troubled children my husband and I encountered in our years as foster parents. So, I’m going to do my part and apply what I learned in that particular School of Hard Knocks and just say:
Father Guidry, I don’t believe you. Your lies are not working. I pray that those with the authority to do so, protect the public from you.