Sexual assault again rocks the Catholic Church as police raid Houston headquarters for documents related to sexual abuse committed by a local priest.
The police in Texas stormed the Catholic headquarters in Houston, seizing sensitive documents that implicated a Church official of sexual misconduct. Assistant District Attorney J. Tyler Dunman led federal law enforcement, together with the Texas Rangers and officers of the Conroe Police Department to the Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Dunman, also the chief of special crimes bureau for Montgomery County, led the team to search the church headquarters armed with a warrant. They seized records showing that the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez committed sexual offenses against worshipers when he was vicar of the diocese’s Hispanic parishioners. Sixty-one-year-old LaRosa-Lopez handed himself in to the Conroe police following reports from two persons that he sexually molested them as minors between 1999 and 2000.
LaRosa-Lopez’s lawyer Wendell Odom told the New York Times last October that his client “denies any improper touching that would be considered a criminal act.”
LaRosa-Lopez Faces 10 Years in Prison and $10,000 in Fine
For the assault of the two accusers, a man and a woman, the Montgomery County DA’s Office charged LaRosa-Lopez with four counts of indecency with a child, two counts for each of his victims. The priest faces up to 10 years behind bars and up to a $10,000 fine. He was released the day after he reported himself to the police, and his court appearance is scheduled for January 10, 2019.
According to Courthouse News, Dunman told them that would not be specific on what the police seized from the Catholic Galveston-Houston headquarters, but stated that it was paper and electronic evidence that would take several weeks to sort. He added that papers related to other criminal activity among other Catholic priests were also discovered and claimed.
Archbishop of the Diocese and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo installed LaRosa-Lopez as head of two churches in suburban Houston, where he reportedly assaulted the minors. LaRosa-Lopez’s assignment came after a girl of 16 reported to diocesan authorities that LaRosa-Lopez kissed and touched her indecently in 2001.
DiNardo removed LaRosa-Lopez from active ministry in August and said that the Church would cooperate fully with the authorities to investigate sexual misconduct among Church priests.
How is the Catholic Church Handling Sex Assault Cases?
Montgomery County DA Brett Ligon disclosed that while the Church had been cooperative in the investigations, saying he would have preferred that no search warrant was necessary. Rather than the necessity of a police raid, Ligon said he would have appreciated if the Church had just opened its doors to investigators without any hassle.
The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops said recently that the 15 dioceses in the state will soon release the names of all priests credibly alleged to defile a minor. A record of such abuses dating back to 1950 is planned for release by the end of January 2019. DiNardo, who spent the last two months in Rome, said he met with Father Francis who asked him to hold off on announcing new policies regarding sexual allegations against bishops.
As for LaRosa-Lopez, he may face more charges. Dunman told Courthouse News on Thursday that more victims of LaRosa-Lopez have come forward and investigators are looking into the allegations.