Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans

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Archdiocese of New Orleans

Archidioecesis Novae Aureliae

Archidiocèse de La Nouvelle-Orléans
Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans
Cathedral new orleans.jpg
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans.svg
Country United States
TerritoryParishes of Jefferson (except Grand Isle), Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Washington
Ecclesiastical provinceArchdiocese of New Orleans
Area4,208 sq mi (10,900 km2)
- Total
- Catholics (including non-members)
(as of 2013)
520,056 (42%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedApril 25, 1793 (227 years)
CathedralCathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Patron saintSt. Louis
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Secular priests387
Current leadership
ArchbishopGregory Michael Aymond
Auxiliary BishopsFernand J. Cheri
Bishops emeritusAlfred Clifton Hughes
Archdiocese of New Orleans map 1.jpg

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, (Latin: Archidioecesis Novae Aureliae, French: Archidiocèse de la Nouvelle-Orléans, Spanish: Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans), is an ecclesiastical division of the Roman Catholic Church administered from New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the second-oldest diocese in the present-day United States, having been elevated to the rank of diocese on April 25, 1793, by Pope Pius VI during Spanish colonial rule. Our Lady of Prompt Succor and St. Louis, King of France are the patron saints of the archdiocese and Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is its mother church as St. Patrick's Church serves as the Pro-Cathedral of the archdiocese.

Led by an archbishop, the Archdiocese of New Orleans is the center of a larger ecclesiastical province that encompasses the entire state of Louisiana. The Metropolitan Province of New Orleans include the suffragan Dioceses of Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Shreveport.

On June 12, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Gregory Michael Aymond of the Diocese of Austin to be Archbishop of New Orleans. Archbishop Aymond was installed on August 20, 2009 at Saint Louis Cathedral.


The archdiocese encompasses eight civil parishes in the New Orleans metropolitan area: Jefferson (except Grand Isle)[note 1] Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, and Washington. There are 137 church parishes in the archdiocese, ministered by 387 priests (including those belonging to religious institutes), 187 permanent deacons, 84 brothers, and 432 sisters. There are 372,037 Catholics on the census of the archdiocese, 36% of the total population of the area. The current head of the archdiocese is Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond. There is one Archbishop Emeritus: Archbishop Alfred Clifton Hughes. There is also one Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus: Bishop Dominic Carmon, S.V.D.


Detail of 1726 sketch of New Orleans, showing the Parish Church of St. Louis, where the St. Louis Cathedral would later be built.

The Catholic Church has had a presence in New Orleans since before the founding of the city by the French in 1718. Missionaries served the French military outposts and worked among the native peoples. The area was then under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Quebec. In 1721 Fr. Francis-Xavier de Charlevoix, S.J., made a tour of New France from the Lakes to the Mississippi, and visiting New Orleans, he describes "a little village of about one hundred cabins dotted here and there, a large wooden warehouse in which I said Mass, a chapel in course of construction and two storehouses".[2]

In 1722 the Capuchins were assigned ecclesiastical responsibility for the Lower Mississippi Valley, while the Jesuits maintained a mission, based in New Orleans, to serve the indigenous peoples. The Jesuit vicar-general returned to France to recruit priests and also persuaded the Ursulines of Rouen to assume charge of a hospital and school. The royal patent authorizing the Ursulines to found a convent in Louisiana was issued September 18, 1726. Ten religious from various cities sailed from Hennebont on January 12, 1727, and reached New Orleans on August 6. As the convent was not ready, the governor gave up his residence to them. They opened a hospital for the care of the sick and a school for poor children.[2]

New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana west of the Mississippi were surrendered to the Spanish in 1763. From then until 1783 the East and West Florida were under British control, but as part of the Peace of Paris (1783) the two Florida colonies were regained from Great Britain. Thus, the pioneer parishes of New Orleans and Louisiana were incorporated into the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas when it was erected on April 25, 1793. The diocese originally encompassed the entire Louisiana Purchase, from the Gulf of Mexico to British North America, as well as the Florida peninsula and the Gulf Coast.[2]

The date of its establishment makes it the second-oldest diocese in the present-day United States: the Diocese of Baltimore was established on November 6, 1789. At the time of its establishment, the territory of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas was part of the Archdiocese of San Cristobal de la Habana, based in Havana, Cuba.

The diocese was divided into smaller dioceses several times, and many modern dioceses in the central United States were originally part of the Diocese of Louisiana. As capital of the Louisiana, the city was sold to the United States in 1803. The diocese was renamed the Diocese of New Orleans in 1826, and encompassed what is now Louisiana and Mississippi. New Orleans was elevated to an archdiocese in 1850. As the population of Louisiana grew, the Archdiocese of New Orleans was further subdivided into several additional dioceses.

In its long history, the archdiocese and the city of New Orleans have survived several major disasters, including several citywide fires, a British invasion, the American Civil War, multiple yellow fever epidemics, anti-immigration and anti-Catholicism, the New Orleans Hurricane of 1915, Segregation, Hurricane Betsy, and an occasional financial crisis, not to mention Hurricane Katrina. Each time, the archdiocese rebuilt damaged churches and rendered assistance to the victims of every disaster. More recently, the church has faced an increased demand for churches in the suburbs and a decline in attendance to inner-city parishes. The church has also weathered changes within the Roman Catholic Church, such as the Second Vatican Council, and changing spiritual values throughout the rest of the United States.[3]

The archdiocese sustained severe damage from Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Numerous churches and schools were flooded and battered by hurricane-force winds. In the more heavily flooded neighborhoods, such as St. Bernard Parish, many parish structures were wiped out entirely.[4]


In early 2009, the state of Maine passed a law allowing same-sex civil marriage. In July 2009 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans contributed $2,000 of its money to a referendum campaign to overturn that law.[5] According to Maine's "Commission on Governmental Ethics & Election Practices", the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland Maine spent over $553,000 to overturn the law. The Archdiocese of New Orleans' $2,000 was part of that $553,000.[6]

Sex abuse[edit]

As of 2019, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has listed 81 clergy who were "credibly accused" of committing acts of sex abuse while they were serving in the archdiocese. Some settled lawsuits filed against them while one, Francis LeBlanc, was convicted in 1996.[7] Archbishop Alfred Hughes acknowledged that for sex abuse claims during 1950–2003, the archdiocese and its insurers paid $1,187,066 for settlements, $448,735 for therapy, and $421,372 for legal fees. Additional settlements were reached by 2019 as well.[8]

On January 24, 2020, staff of the New Orleans Saints admitted that the football team's Senior Vice President for Communications Greg Bensel "offered input on how to work with the media" to help the Archdiocese of New Orleans handle the sex abuse scandal.[9] Bensel advised the Archdiocese to "Be direct, open and fully transparent, while making sure that all law enforcement agencies were alerted."[9][10] Bensel was among a number of community and civic leaders consulted by the Archdiocese before releasing the accused clergy names in November 2018.[9][10]

On May 8, 2020, it was revealed that the leader of the board of directors for one of the Archdiocese of New Orleans' various ministries resigned his post recently after claiming in a lawsuit against the church that he was molested by one of its priests decades ago.[11] The plaintiff who spoke on anonymity, claimed he resigned under duress.[11] The Archdiocese, which mediated a settlement in 2019, had previously agreed to pay for expenses which the plaintiff paid for six years of counseling.[11] However, the plaintiff filed his lawsuit on April 7, 2020, after claiming that he discovered that the priest who allegedly molested him, James Collery, had more victims.[11] Collery died in 1987.[11] The lawsuit also claimed that the plaintiff first reported the abuse in 2013.[11]

On May 19, 2020, it was revealed that all surviving accused clergy who served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans had their payments suspended as part of the bankruptcy settlement, though some were trying to get their payments reinstated.[12] Among those who tried to restore payment was retired Archdiocese of New Orleans priest Paul Calamari, who tried to get his pension reinstated by admitting to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Grabill on May 18, 2020 that he had a “failing” and a “sin” with a 17 year old high school boy in 1973.[12]

On August 19, 2020, Fr. Brian Highfill was added to the Archdiocese of New Orleans' list of credibly accused clergy nearly two decades after his alleged actions of sex abuse were first reported against him.[13] A trove of love letters which Highfill wrote to one of his victims, Scot Brander, in the 1980s backed allegations that he committed acts of sex abuse as well.[13] Scot, who Highfill knew since the age of 10, later committed suicide, though his brother Michael Brander still pursued justice and preserved the love letters in a desk drawer.[13] Despite indefinitely suspending Highfill from ministry in 2018, the Archdiocese refused up to this point in time to deem sex abuse allegations against him as credible.[13] It was noted that Highfill was the 64th name added to the original list of credibly accused clergy which had been released in 2018.[14]


On May 1, 2020, it was announced that the Archdiocese of New Orleans had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The causes of the decision were said to be the mounting cost of litigation from sexual abuse cases and the unforeseen financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.[15] The Archdiocese, which had a $45 million budget,[16] owed $38 million in bonds to creditors and was also facing more pending sex abuse lawsuits.[16][17] The pending sex abuse lawsuits, which were suspended due to the bankruptcy filing,[17] would likely result in the already financially struggling Archdiocese of New Orleans losing millions of dollars more.[16] On August 20, 2020, victims of sex abuse by clergy who served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed a motion in court to dismiss the bankruptcy.[14]


From the cathedra, located in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, the Archbishop of New Orleans presides over the Metropolitan Province.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is a culturally diverse community within the diverse city of New Orleans. As a major port, the city has attracted immigrants from around the world. Since French and Spanish Catholics ruled the city, they encouraged enslaved Africans to adopt Christianity. The city has a large population of African American Catholics with deep heritage in the area. Later European immigrants, such as the Irish, Italians, Polish, and German Bavarians have also been a part of the archdiocese throughout its history. In the last quarter of the 20th century, many Vietnamese Catholics from South Vietnam settled in the city. New waves of immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Cuba have added to the Catholic congregations.


The best known church in the New Orleans Archdiocese is the historic St. Louis Cathedral fronting the Spanish Plaza de Armas, now Jackson Square, in the French Quarter. This church was originally built in 1718, shortly after the founding of the city. The modest building was destroyed by fire several times before the current structure was built between 1789 and 1794 during the Spanish domination. During renovations to the cathedral between 1849 and 1851, St. Patrick's Church, the second-oldest parish in the city, served as the pro-cathedral of the archdiocese.


The Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas was erected on April 25, 1793; it encompassed the area claimed by Spain as Luisiana, which was all the land draining into the Mississippi River from the west, as well as Spanish territory to the east of the river in modern-day Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

In April 1803, the United States purchased Louisiana from France, which had in 1800 forced Spain to retrocede the territory in the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso. The United States took formal possession of New Orleans on December 20, 1803, and of Upper Louisiana on March 10, 1804. The then-Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore served as apostolic administrator of the diocese from 1805 to 1812; during this period, the diocese became a suffragan of Baltimore. Archbishop Carroll's successor as apostolic administrator would eventually be the diocese's first resident bishop of the 19th century.

In 1823, Joseph Rosati was appointed coadjutor bishop of the diocese. In 1825, the territory of the diocese in what is now Alabama and Florida was transferred to the new Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas, and in 1826, the diocese was renamed, becoming the Diocese of New Orleans. At the same time, the diocese's territory was further reduced by the creation of the Vicariate Apostolic of Mississippi and the Diocese of St. Louis. Bishop Rosati served as the diocese's apostolic administrator from 1826 to 1829; having been appointed bishop of St. Louis two years previously, he resigned the administration of the New Orleans diocese upon the appointment of Bishop de Neckere.

Bishops of Louisiana and the Two Floridas[edit]

  1. Luis Ignatius Peñalver y Cárdenas (1795-1801), then appointed Archbishop of Guatemala
  2. Francisco Porró y Reinado (disputed,[18] 1801-1803), then appointed Bishop of Tarazona in Spain
  3. Louis-Guillaume Dubourg (1815-1825), then appointed Bishop of Montauban and later Archbishop of Besançon in France
  4. Leo-Raymond de Neckere (1830-1833), until his death

(Auguste Jeanjean was appointed, 1834; did not take effect.)

Archbishops of New Orleans[edit]

Archbishop Hughes greets parishioners in front of St. Louis Cathedral after the first services in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina more than a month earlier.
  1. Antoine Blanc (1835-1860); raised from Bishop to Archbishop in 1850 when New Orleans became archdiocese
  2. Jean-Marie Odin (1861-1870)
  3. Napoléon-Joseph Perché (1870-1883)
  4. Francis Xavier Leray (1883-1887)
  5. Francis Janssens (1888-1897)
  6. Placide-Louis Chapelle (1897-1905)
  7. James Blenk, S.M. (1906-1917)
  8. John W. Shaw (1918-1934)
  9. Joseph F. Rummel (1935-1964)
  10. John P. Cody (1964-1965), appointed Archbishop of Chicago (elevated to Cardinal in 1967)
  11. Philip M. Hannan (1965-1989)
  12. Francis B. Schulte (1989-2002)
  13. Alfred C. Hughes (2002-2009)
  14. Gregory M. Aymond (2009–present)

Auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other priests of this diocese who became bishops[edit]


The 108 parishes of the archdiocese are divided into 10 deaneries.


There are 5 Roman Catholic colleges and over 20 high schools within the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Many of the churches throughout the archdiocese have primary schools as well.

Previously Catholic schools were racially segregated. In 1962 there were 153 Catholic schools; that year the archdiocese began admitting black students into schools that did not admit them; that year about 200 black children attended the archdiocese's Catholic schools previously not reserved for black children. The desegregation occurred two years after public schools had integrated. Bruce Nolan of The Times Picayune stated that because Catholic schools had a later desegregation, white liberal and African-American groups faced disappointment but that the integration had not produced as intense of a backlash.[19]


Ecclesiastical province of New Orleans[edit]

See: List of the Catholic bishops of the United States#Province of New Orleans

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Unlike the rest of Jefferson Parish, the church of Grand Isle is not in the New Orleans archdiocese, but instead in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.[1]


  1. ^ "Home". Our Lady of the Isle. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Points, Marie Louise. "New Orleans." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. November 19, 2017
  3. ^ Nolan, Charles E. "A Brief History of the Archdiocese of New Orleans." 2001 May.
  4. ^ Finney, Peter. "Devastation." The Clarion Herald. 2005 Oct. 1. Vol. 44, No. 9.
  5. ^ Chuck Colbert (November 25, 2009). "Dioceses major contributors to repeal same-sex marriage". National Catholic Reporter. Kansas City, Missouri. Retrieved November 29, 2009.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ (password required)
  8. ^ "Bishop Accountability". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "Statement from the New Orleans Saints". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "New Orleans Saints confirm staff helped Archdiocese during sex abuse revelations". WGN-TV. January 25, 2020. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f writer, RAMON ANTONIO VARGAS | Staff. "Leader of New Orleans archdiocese ministry's board resigns after filing clergy sex abuse lawsuit". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  12. ^ a b writer, RAMON ANTONIO VARGAS | Staff. "New Orleans priest admits to 'sin' with teen student, still wants retirement payments restarted". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d Hammer, David (August 19, 2020). "New Orleans' archdiocese adds priest to credibly accused list after almost 2 decades of allegations". WWLTV News. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Abuse victims challenge legitimacy of Archdiocese bankruptcy claim". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  15. ^ "Archdiocese of New Orleans files for bankruptcy". The Catholic World Report. May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  16. ^ a b c writer, RAMON ANTONIO VARGAS | Staff. "Archdiocese of New Orleans to file bankruptcy; Aymond meets with area priests". Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ "Bishops of Archdiocese". St. Louis Cathedral. Retrieved December 3, 2019. Penalver, First Bishop... DuBourg, Second Bishop, after an interval marked by rebellion against ecclesiastical authority... de Neckere, Third Bishop
  19. ^ Nolan, Bruce (November 15, 2010). "New Orleans area Catholic schools integrated 2 years after the city's public schools". The Times Picayune. Retrieved May 30, 2020.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Archdiocese of New Orleans". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°57′27″N 90°06′56″W / 29.95750°N 90.11556°W / 29.95750; -90.11556