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Accused African priest in New Orleans countersues alleged victim

The pastor of St Peter Claver in New Orleans, who has been on leave since the revelation of an abuse allegation in January, has responded with a lawsuit of his own.

Fr John Asare-Dankwah, who was removed from ministry at St Peter Claver New Orleans in January following a child sex abuse allegation, has countersued his accuser for defamation.

The suit, which follows the accuser amending his own to say Asare abused him at a retreat in Ponchatoula, Louisiana (rather than the original Montgomery, Alabama), was filed on Monday in the US District Court.

In it, Asare details his history of ministry, including service at the historic St Monica (now closed) and St Peter Claver parishes, where local Black bishop Fernand J. Cheri III, OFM currently serves and soon-to-be-ordained Black deacon Ajani Gibson was recently assigned.

These and other accomplishments are cited as being affected negatively by the allegations, which Asare’s countersuit says are “horrible”,“false”, and “wholly without merit”.

Asare has maintained his innocence since the allegations became public, going to the local press after returning to New Orleans from a trip to Ghana, his home country, where he was visiting at the time.

He also claims to have been in Ghana at the time of the alleged incident, said to have occurred in 2008 when Asare was stationed at Blessed Trinity (the parish resulting from the merger of St Monica and other parishes).

Asare became pastor there that same year.

The alleged victim is being represented by Desiree Charbonnet, herself a Black Catholic. She came under fire after the suit included as a defendant the archdiocese, which filed for bankruptcy last May—occasioning a ban on further suits concerning abuse.

(Like the alleged retreat location, this inclusion was later amended.)

Asare is one of two pastors of notable Black parishes currently facing abuse allegations, the other being Fr Michael Pfleger of St Sabina’s in Chicago. He is facing accusations from three different men who say he violated them in the 1970s.

While Pfleger and his parish has been more than a little uncouth regarding the ensuing investigation, Fr Asare has kept a more lowkey profile, only re-entering the news cycle upon discovery of his countersuit this week.

That said, Asare—like Pfleger—is not without notably vocal supporters.

An entire website dedicated to defending his reputation has been operating for at least two months, entitled "New Orleans Supports Fr. Asare"—complete with a logo, an events section (which for now lists only a TBD prayer call), an interactive testimonial wall, and a short promotional video.

In the latter, one supporter, speaking over dramatic trailer music, says Asare “has always been a person that would help you.”

“He would definitely not hurt you.”

Both Asare and Pfleger’s respective cases remain unresolved.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).