As Texas Fights Clergy Abuse The Catholic Diocese of Dallas Is Subjected To Police Search

Earlier this year, Catholic dioceses across Texas released the names of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing parishioners, many of whom were children. This list was released after public outcry when police arrested Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, a Conroe priest, for four counts of indecency with a child in September 2018. The release of names led to an investigation by Dallas police, which conducted a thorough search of a church and several offices just last week.

Dallas police executed search warrants at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, looking for diocese records. St. Cecilia Catholic Church is the same church in which a pastor was accused of stealing funds and sexually assaulting three teenage boys more than a decade ago. Arrest warrants were issued for pastor Edmundo Paredez for these allegations in September 2018. As police investigated Paradez, they uncovered allegations against four additional priests: Jeremy Myers, William Hughes, Richard Thomas Brown, and Alejandro Buitrago. Paradez and the other four priests were all named on the list of over 300 clergy members who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. While the Dallas police have been tight lipped about their investigation, it could lead to criminal charges filed against the priests and justice for victims.

However, the Catholic Church is not the only denomination facing clergy abuse allegations. Shortly after the Catholic dioceses released their list of priests accused of sexual abuse, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed 380 Southern Baptist Convention church leaders and volunteers across the country have been accused of sexual misconduct. Over 220 of these individuals have been charged with sex crimes.

Texas Clergy Abuse Lawyers

While criminal charges can help provide justice for victims and prevent predator priests from targeting and hurting more victims, the criminal cases do nothing to offer victims compensation. Sexual abuse victims have the legal right to pursue civil lawsuits against their perpetrators. At Feldman & Feldman, we’ve helped clergy sexual abuse victims hold religious institutions responsible for failing to protect them. If you have been a victim of clergy sexual abuse, we know how challenging coming forward can be, but we promise to be with you every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to learn your legal options.

Investigation Reveals Over 300 Sexually Abusive Southern Baptist Church Leaders

Just one week after Catholic Dioceses across Texas released the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers across the country have been accused of sexual misconduct. Over 220 of these individuals have been charged with sex crimes. Nonetheless the Southern Baptist Convention has refused to act and implement protocols that could prevent much of this abuse, and now victims want answers.

The Southern Baptist Convention as an institution is particularly susceptible to becoming a vehicle for abusers as church doctrine supports the independence of each local church. Hence, there is no central database tracking when an individual was ordained, accusations of sexual or physical assault, and the background/criminal history of pastors, church officials, or employees. In turn, it was previously unknown just how widespread abuse was within the Southern Baptist Convention. The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News assembled through news reports, prison records, court records, sex offender registries, the number of known predators within the Southern Baptist Convention. However, this probably only represents a fraction of the crisis, as most incidents go unreported, or are not publicly revealed by church officials.

Nonetheless, the Houston Chronicle investigation revealed startling facts. According to the investigation, at least 35 church pastors, employees, and volunteers were able to find a job within Southern Baptist Convention after exhibiting predatory behavior. This was due in part to churches failing to alert law enforcement officials to claims of abuse. The investigation also found that registered sex offenders were able to return to a church and continue working such as one Houston area preacher who sexually assaulted a minor. While some of the church sexual abuse victims were adults, most were minors, with the youngest only three years old. Victims reported being molested, sent explicit communications, photographed nude, exposed to pornography, and repeatedly raped. Many assaults occurred on church grounds.

Helping Victims Speak Out

Feldman & Feldman has been on the front lines holding perpetrators of sex crimes accountable, regardless of denomination, faith, creed, sexual orientation, or race, including members of the Southern Baptist Convention. Religious institutions far too often sweep incidents under the rug, and victims often are unable to seek justice in the criminal justice arena. Feldman & Feldman utilizes recourse in the civil justice system to assist victims in finding closure, and in holding sexual predators fully accountable. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys.

Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Release List Of Sexually Abusive Priests

Feldman & Feldman has an established history helping victims of sexual abuse involving the church. Indeed, growing pressure from civil lawsuits such as those filed by Feldman & Feldman, as well as criminal investigations nationally, have forced religious institutions throughout the country to be more forthcoming. As a result, in response to growing public concerns of sexual abuse among clergy, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has released today a list of clergy with credible sexual abuse allegations dating as far back as the 1940s. There are in excess of 300 clergy members on the list. To see the full list, click here.

In solidarity with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, dioceses all across the state have also released similar lists. It is the Church’s hope the list will help victims in the healing process, but it truly comes too late for many victims, who should have been protected from the abuse by more proactive actions from the Church.

Conroe Priest’s Arrest Leads to Release of Names In Texas

On a local level, disclosure of the names of priests engaged in sexual misconduct began in September 2018, when Conroe-based priest Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez was charged with four counts of indecency with a child. The investigation into Father LaRosa-Lopez began when two victims claimed he abused them as teenagers while serving at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Months later, the Montgomery County District Attorney executed a search warrant at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston looking for church records relating to sexual abuse allegations.

According to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, a report was made to Child Protective Services (CPS) after the first allegation referenced above surfaced; however, investigators were unable to find this report during their investigation, begging the question as to what the Diocese knew, and when did they know it. The lack of the purported report to CPS smacked of a cover-up. Victims’ advocates subsequently put tremendous pressure on the Archdiocese to stop protecting clergy members who commit such heinous crimes. In response to this pressure, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and 15 other dioceses have today released names of suspected abusers.

What Is A Credible Allegation?

The lists released by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and others only contain names of clergy who have been “credibly” accused. How the Church describes credibility is a little uncertain, but it has proven self-serving in the past. Michael Norris, a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), had his own allegations determined to be “not credible” by the Church. His abuser was eventually found guilty in a criminal trial and sent to prison. Mr. Norris’s situation illustrates the inability of the Church to internally investigate and prevent sexual abuse. Furthermore, the lists fail to recognize the clergy members who did not participate in abuse, but failed to report it or actively worked to conceal incriminating information.

What Victims Can Do

Sexual abuse is about control. Victims often feel lost and angry, but all victims have rights. While law enforcement can pursue criminal charges, perpetrators of these crimes and the people who protect them can also be held accountable through a civil lawsuit. While no amount of compensation can undo the damage done to victims of clergy sexual abuse, compensation can relieve financial stressors and instead allow victims to focus on healing.

Feldman & Feldman Fights For Clergy Abuse Victims

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have a long history defending some of the most vulnerable populations. Our firm has represented clergy sexual abuse victims in the past and helped them not only hold the perpetrator responsible, but assist victims on their road to recovery by giving them a voice. We understand that coming forward is incredibly difficult for clergy sexual abuse victims, but doing so can also bring great relief knowing their abuser was held accountable and their actions will help prevent further atrocities.

If you were sexually abused by a clergy member, Feldman & Feldman can help. We provide free, no obligation consultations to clergy abuse victims. We can help you understand your legal options and your rights. If you do decide to work with us, there is no upfront cost and you won’t owe us anything unless we help you obtain compensation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our dedicated attorneys.