The latest sign of a Catholic Church in crisis came on November 28 when the archives pertaining to a Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse were the subject of a search warrant executed Wednesday at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Texas. Law enforcement agencies raided the archdiocese’s offices in downtown Houston to comb through the “secret archives” — the confidential documents that every diocese keeps about its personnel. The police raid was made more notable since the head of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese is Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Authorities searched the office looking specifically for documents related to a priest in the archdiocese, Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who was arrested in September 2018 on charges of sexually abusing minors. Father La Rosa-Lopez with four counts of indecency with a child — one boy and one girl — between 1998 and 2001. Currently he is free on bond with his next court appearance scheduled for January.
This intensifying investigation has raised questions about how Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and his staff dealt with complaints against Manuel La Rosa-Lopez. DiNardo, who became archbishop of Galveston-Houston in 2006, is coming under fire for allegedly covering up abuse. The victims in La Rosa-Lopez’s case claim they reported the sex abuse at the time, but that church leaders did not report it to police. If so, it follows a familiar pattern. According to research done by the Houston Chronicle, up until the arrest of La Rosa-Lopez in September, only three priests — out of more than 20 who have faced molestation claims in the Houston area — were known to have been jailed because of those charges.
As president of the United States Catholic bishops’ conference Cardinal DiNardo is at the fore of the response by the Catholic Church in America to clergy sex abuse scandals. In a recent op-ed by the Cardinal in the Houston Chronicle, he said that he had removed Father LaRosa-Lopez from ministry immediately after the second alleged victim came forward, yet never explained why he had kept the priest in ministry or named him vicar for Hispanics. Cardinal DiNardo instead appeared to blame Child Protective Services for failing to act on the victim’s report of abuse.
Equally troubling is that in his piece in the Houston Chronicle, Cardinal DiNardo revealed that he is hiring “management consultants” to help compile and validate a list of priests who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse in his diocese. The Cardinal did not elaborate on how the management company would decide who has been credibly accused or give details on how the lists will be compiled. The fear among victims of sexual assault is that the church will not providing consultants complete access to the records. By giving the appearance of complying – by compiling lists of abusers – the Catholic Church will be avoiding subpoenas and thus denying law enforcement complete access to church records. In other words, the Catholic Church is more interested in controlling the narrative than in exposing pedophile priests.
In my own history of defending the victims of sex abuse committed by clergy I have seen these behaviors by the Catholic Church demonstrated time and time again. The church has always been more concerned with preserving the “Brand,” than protecting the victims of abuse. If the scourge of sexual abuse by clergy is ever going to be brought to a halt, and the victims of these heinous crimes allowed justice, the church will have to stop protecting the pedophiles in its midst. The Vatican and archdioceses world-wide must grant access to their records and help expose the sexual predators who have lived and preyed on children so long while being protected by their collar and their church.
At Saunders & Walker we have a long record of helping victims of sexual abuse by clergy seek justice. If a priest or another member of a church has sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact us at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.