Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge
Diocese of Baton Rouge
|Territory||Parishes of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. James, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana|
|Ecclesiastical province||Archdiocese of New Orleans|
|Area||5,513 sq mi (14,280 km2)|
- Catholics (including non-members)
|(as of 2012)|
|Sui iuris church||Latin Church|
|Established||July 20, 1961|
|Cathedral||St. Joseph Cathedral|
|Patron saint||St. Joseph|
|Bishop||Michael Gerard Duca|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Gregory Michael Aymond|
Archbishop of New Orleans
|Vicar General||Thomas Ranzino |
|Bishops emeritus||Robert William Muench|
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge (Latin Dioecesis Rubribaculensis; French Diocèse de Bâton-Rouge; Spanish: Diócesis de Baton Rouge) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Catholic Church spanning Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, St. James, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana (civil) parishes, a total area of about 5,405 square miles (14,000 km2) in south central Louisiana.
The diocese consists of 64 diocesan parishes, 2 ethnic apostolates, and 2 university chaplaincies served by a total of 106 priests (50 active and 21 retired diocesan priests, 24 active and 6 retired religious priests, and 5 priests of other jurisdictions), 70 permanent deacons, 3 transitional deacons, 16 lay male religious (brothers), 90 female religious (nuns and sisters), and 17 seminarians. It is a suffragan in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of New Orleans. The current bishop is Michael Duca.
The Christian history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge began with the work of French missionaries among the Native American peoples of the area. In particular, French Jesuits and Capuchin Franciscans were responsible for the preaching of the Gospel along the Mississippi River during the first half of the 18th century: it is recorded that Père Pierre Charlevoix, S.J., celebrated the first Eucharist in Baton Rouge on New Year's Day, 1722, on the present site of the Louisiana State Capitol building. As permanent settlements were established in the Louisiana colony, churches were erected. The first permanent church in the region was St. Francis Chapel of Pointe Coupée, built in 1738. Parishes were established at St. James in 1767, at St. Gabriel in 1769, at Donaldsonville in 1772, at Baton Rouge in 1792, and at Plattenville in 1793. The oldest church that still stands in its original form is the St. Gabriel Church in St. Gabriel, Louisiana.
On 25 April 1793, Pope Leo XIII erected the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, subsequently renamed to the Diocese of New Orleans on 18 July 1826 and elevated to a metropolitan archdiocese on 19 July 1850. An acute shortage of clergy persisted in that diocese for many, many years. The settlement of Baton Rouge was fortunate to have a resident priest at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish and, later, St. Joseph Parish for most of its first century. Many difficulties were encountered during the 1800s, including not only the universal problems of disease, Civil War and Reconstruction, and sometimes violent ecclesiastical disputes over the legal authority of parochial "trustees." Still, the faith prospered and the institutional Church grew along with it, with Catholic houses of worship and education established during this time throughout the area.
The first half of the 20th century saw unprecedented growth: the rise of the City of Baton Rouge in industrial, political, and social importance meant a large population increase. The Church in the metropolitan area grew from one Parish in 1900 to nine by 1950 and to fifteen by 1960. In the larger, rural areas of the Diocese, Parishes gradually developed from "mission" chapels as resident priests began to be available.
On 22 July 1961, Pope John XXIII promulgated the bull Peramplum novae aureliae erecting the Diocese of Baton Rouge, taking its territory from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan archdiocese. The pope designated St. Joseph Church in the see city, built in 1853-1855 and renovated many times since, as the cathedral church of the new diocese. A census conducted in the very first year of the diocese's operation revealed its membership to be 164,476 Catholics out of the total of 464,904 people reported by the U. S. Census Bureau in the federal census conducted in prior year.
The first Bishop of Baton Rouge, Robert E. Tracy of New Orleans, Louisiana, energetically organized the diocese in the spirit of Vatican Council II, of which he was a proud participant. The Church of Baton Rouge became a model for other Dioceses in establishing its post-Conciliar administrative structure and consultative process as its pastoral growth continued unabated. A younger-than-average presbyterate proved to be an enormous asset in providing unified pastoral leadership to the local Church in its formative period. Particular emphasis was placed upon liturgical renewal and modern catechetical efforts during this time.
In 1974, Joseph V. Sullivan of Kansas City, Missouri, became Baton Rouge's second bishop. His concern for Catholic education and for a more traditional approach to Catholic doctrine and practice marked his episcopal ministry in the diocese. He was a prominent advocate of the "Pro-Life Movement," and frequently restated the opposition of the Church to abortion, euthanasia, and related evils.
In 1983, one of the original priests of the diocese, Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott, was named the third Bishop of Baton Rouge. Under his leadership, the local Church devoted itself to a widespread effort at evangelization and spiritual renewal. He called especially for the laity of the diocese to take new initiatives to renew their faith and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. He also initiated a comprehensive program urging financial, ministerial, and spiritual stewardship, for which the Diocese of Baton Rouge again became a model for other dioceses in North America. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was put in place as a model for evangelization and catechesis. Ecumenical efforts were significant, resulting in notable efforts at interdenominational sharing of prayer and some limited ministry. Diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 1991, Bishop Ott continued to give eloquent witness to Gospel values by his manner of ministry, life, and dying over the next eighteen months. He became a source and focus of unity and grace to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
In November 1993, Auxiliary Bishop Alfred C. Hughes of the Archdiocese of Boston, was installed as Baton Rouge's fourth bishop. He continued to emphasize spiritual growth for the Catholic people of the diocese, especially by active social justice programs and deeper doctrinal formation in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He called courageously for fidelity to the Church and to her teachings in confronting the secularism of the modern world. He reorganized diocesan programs of vocational recruitment and began a comprehensive process designed to cope with declining numbers of ordained ministers in local parishes. A major capital fundraising campaign, designed to achieve certain specific objectives and focus attention on the need for the Church to face the future with confidence and faith, was overwhelmingly successful. In February 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Hughes as Coadjutor Archbishop of New Orleans, where he subsequently succeeded the metropolitan archbishop in January 2002.
2018 sexual abuse scandal
In February 2018, a lawsuit for sexual abuse which was filed against the Diocese of Baton Rouge and one of its priests, Father Jeff Bayhi, in 2009 by alleged abuse victim Rebecca Mayeux and her parents, due to the reliance on what another priest heard in confession as a major source of evidence. Bayhi was accused in the lawsuit of acknowledging that Rebecca Mayeux confessed to her that she was sexually abused by George Charlet Jr., another priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, and that both Bayhi and the Diocese refused to report the abuse to law enforcement. The Louisiana Supreme Court had previously ruled that the Catholic Seal of Confession is legally protected, with a Diocese lawyer also noting that breaking the seal triggers automatic excommunication. However. the lawsuit against the estate of Charlet, who died in 2009, remained ongoing.
In January 2019, the Roman Catholic diocese released the names of 37 former clergy who had been accused of committing acts of sexual abuse while serving the diocese. The diocese added four more names to the list in February 2019, two more names in July 2019, two more names in January 2020, and another name in July 2020, bringing the current total to 46.
Bishops of Baton Rouge
- Robert Emmet Tracy (1961-1974)
- Joseph Vincent Sullivan (1974-1982)
- Stanley Joseph Ott (1983-1992)
- Alfred Clifton Hughes (1993-2001), appointed Archbishop of New Orleans
- Robert William Muench (2002-2018)
- Michael Gerard Duca (2018–present)
Other priests of this diocese who became bishops
- William Donald Borders, appointed Bishop of Orlando in 1968 and later Archbishop of Baltimore
- Shelton Fabre, appointed Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans in 2006 and later Bishop of Houma-Thibodaux
- Ascension Catholic Diocesan High School (Donaldsonville)
- Catholic High School (Baton Rouge)
- Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee (New Roads)
- Saint Thomas Aquinas Diocesan Regional High School (Tangipahoa Parish)
- St. John the Evangelist Interparochial High School (Plaquemine)
- St. Joseph's Academy (Baton Rouge)
- St. Michael the Archangel Diocesan Regional High School (Shenandoah, East Baton Rouge Parish)
The diocese is divided into 5 deaneries.
- Northeast Deanery
- Northwest Deanery
- Baton Rouge Deanery
- East Central Deanery
Ecclesiastical Province of New Orleans
- "Our Coat of Arms". Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge.
- "History". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
- "Statistics". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
- "St. Francis Chapel". St. Mary of False River Catholic Church. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Gremillion, Nick. "Diocese of Baton Rouge adds two more names to list of credibly accused clergy members". www.wafb.com.
- report, Advocate staff. "45 Baton Rouge-area clergy members on diocese's official sex abuse list: See names, more". The Advocate.
- writer, LEA SKENE | Staff. "Baton Rouge Diocese adds two more names to list of clergy accused of abuse". The Advocate.
- [dead link]
- Gremillion, Nick. "Diocese of Baton Rouge adds name to list of credibly accused clergy members". www.wafb.com.