Metairie Deacon removed from ministry following abuse allegations
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has dismissed a recently ordained deacon from his ministerial duties at a Metairie church following an allegation of abuse that's believed to have occurred 20 years ago.
According to The Advocate, Archdiocese officials said that after receiving official notice of abuse allegations in connection with Deacon V.M. Wheeler last week, Archbishop Gregory Aymond removed Wheeler from his post at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Old Metairie.
Wheeler has served as a deacon since he was ordained in 2018, the 63-year-old is also a partner at the prominent Chaffe McCall law firm.
A spokesperson for the archdiocese, Sarah McDonald, said, “His ministry at St. Francis Xavier was not with children, and we have no other complaints against him, nor do we have record of any concerns from families at the parish.”
In the Catholic Church, deacons are ordained but they typically have secular jobs in addition to church responsibilities. Unlike priests, they are allowed to marry, as long as this takes place prior to their ordination.
Archdiocesan officials said they notified law enforcement of the alleged abuse. They did not offer details about the alleged abuse -- such as the age or gender of the alleged victim, or where it occurred -- but said that anyone with knowledge about it should contact the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office. A JPSO spokesman confirmed it had been in contact with the archdiocese and likewise urged people with information to come forward.
An attorney for Wheeler said he was “shocked” by the allegation.
“I am shocked that any kind of claim would be made against V.M. He has the highest character and just the greatest reputation in the community for honesty and integrity,” said the lawyer, Eddie Castaing. “V.M. learned of this today, had no hint or knowledge that anything like this was being said about him. It’s just too early to make any comments.”
Wheeler graduated from Tulane Law School and before becoming a partner at Chaffee McCall law firm, worked as an investment banker in New York, Dallas and Houston, according to a biography that was removed from Chaffe McCall's website on Monday.
In a statement, the law firm said, “Mr. Wheeler has been employed at Chaffe McCall since 2016. We take this matter very seriously and are taking appropriate action. As this is a confidential personnel matter, we are not able to comment further at this time.”
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