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Abuse scandal hits diocese of cardinal set to meet with pope

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivers remarks at the USCCB's annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

HOUSTON (AP) — As U.S. Catholic leaders head to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis about a growing church abuse crisis, the cardinal leading the delegation has been accused by two people of not doing enough to stop a priest who was arrested this week on sexual abuse charges.

The two people told The Associated Press that they reported the priest and met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. One of them says she was promised in a meeting with DiNardo, several years after she first reported abuse, that the priest would be removed from any contact with children, only to discover that the priest remained in active ministry at another parish 70 miles away.

The priest, Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, was arrested Tuesday (Sept. 11) by police in Conroe, Texas. Both people who spoke to the AP are cooperating with police.

The priest’s arrest and allegations that DiNardo kept an abusive priest around children cast a shadow over a Thursday summit at the Vatican between Pope Francis and American bishops and cardinals. DiNardo is leading the delegation, putting him in the position of having to fend off abuse allegations in his own diocese while at the same time calling on the pope to get tougher on clergy abuse.

In addition to his responsibilities in Houston, DiNardo is head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a position that has made him a prominent figure in the church’s response to a new wave of allegations that Catholic leaders covered up sexual abuse. He has been outspoken in his calls for Francis to investigate ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed from his post in July after a credible accusation that he groped a teenager.

DiNardo himself is now facing criticism for his role in handling a priest accused of abusing children.

LaRosa-Lopez, 60, is accused of fondling both people when they were teenagers and he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. He is charged with four counts of indecency with a child. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

LaRosa-Lopez is now the pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond while also serving as the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

The archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday confirming that both people had come forward to report abuse by LaRosa-Lopez, one of them in 2001. The archdiocese said it reported both allegations to the state Child Protective Services and said it was unaware of any other “allegations of inappropriate conduct involving minors” against the priest. A spokesman for CPS on Wednesday declined to comment, citing confidentiality of the reports. LaRosa-Lopez did not immediately return a phone message left Wednesday.

“To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions,” the archdiocese said.

Both accusers who say they went to DiNardo are now in their 30s. The Associated Press typically does not identify victims in sexual abuse cases, and both people asked that their names be withheld.

One was flown by the church from the West Coast to Houston to meet with DiNardo and the victims’ assistance coordinator for the archdiocese. They met at the archdiocese on the afternoon of Aug. 10, just as DiNardo was taking on a greater role nationally in responding to the McCarrick saga.

The man wrote down notes from the meeting quickly after leaving and shared a copy of the notes with AP.

“Cardinal seemed dismissive of situation,” the notes read. He also wrote down what he says is a quote from DiNardo: “You should have told us sooner.”

“It was a dismissive tone,” he recalled. “In the back of my head, I was thinking about his comment. I was so mad afterward.”

Both said they had believed their cases would be too old to prosecute under statute of limitations laws. But the Texas Legislature in 2007 removed the statute of limitations for cases of indecency with a child. Montgomery County prosecutors say that means the cases remain eligible to be prosecuted now.

The group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, has called for the Texas attorney general to investigate the Houston archdiocese and others for whether they covered up sexual abuse in their ranks.

“DiNardo needs to come clean on what he knows,” said Michael Norris, a member of SNAP.

Both victims say they were teenagers when LaRosa-Lopez tried to befriend them over a period before initiating physical contact.

The male victim said he became interested as a teenager in joining the clergy and going to seminary. He started to attend Mass and got to know LaRosa-Lopez. Eventually, the teen got a job where he worked nights at Sacred Heart as an assistant.

He remembered LaRosa-Lopez being known as “touchy-feely,” and that the priest’s contact with him became more physical over time: first touching on the arm, then hugging, then a kiss on the cheek.

One night, he said, the priest showed him pictures of young seminarians that “he had a lot of fun with,” and tried to take the teenager’s clothes off and put his hands down his pants. He pushed back and quickly left the residence. He said he reported the incident to church authorities last year. The archdiocese said Wednesday it was “formally presented” with the allegation in August.

The female accuser said LaRosa-Lopez befriended her during her weekly confession at Sacred Heart. “He basically was my only friend,” she said.

The female victim declined to detail what LaRosa-Lopez did, saying only that he touched her inappropriately shortly before Easter, after she had turned 16.

She says her father found out what had happened and the family reported it to the church. Church officials told her that LaRosa-Lopez would be moved.

The archdiocese confirmed Wednesday that LaRosa-Lopez was reassigned in 2001 to another church, St. Francis de Sales, and then moved in 2004 to St. John Fisher, his current assignment. It would not confirm he was moved due to an abuse complaint.

She eventually resumed going to her church with LaRosa-Lopez transferred to a new location.

But in 2010, she saw a copy of the archdiocese’s internal newsletter, which announced LaRosa-Lopez’s appointment as vicar of Hispanic ministry. She thought there was a chance DiNardo didn’t know about her complaint because it had predated his time in Houston.

She contacted the church and started to meet with a therapist paid for by the archdiocese.

Eventually, she met with DiNardo and other top clergy in the diocese. She said they told her that after she had come forward, LaRosa-Lopez was sent to a hospital for psychiatric treatment twice and that would no longer be allowed to work with children.

Then LaRosa-Lopez was brought in for about 10 minutes, she confronted him about the abuse and he apologized.

She said she later discovered that LaRosa-Lopez remained at St. John Fisher, in the presence of children.

Of DiNardo, the woman said, “I’m tired of all of his empty words.”

“If he’s going to go meet with the pope and pretend that all of this is OK and his diocese is clean, I can’t stand it,” she said. “I can’t be quiet.”

The Associated Press asked Tuesday to interview DiNardo and other top leaders at the archdiocese. It also submitted a list of questions about both victims’ allegations.

A spokesman for the archdiocese declined the interview requests or to address specific allegations about what DiNardo told the victims.

LaRosa-Lopez was not present at Mass in St. John Fisher on Saturday night or Sunday. A reporter who visited both days saw that a parking spot, marked with a sign reserving the space for “Father Manuel,” was empty.

Parishioners were told at Sunday morning Mass that LaRosa-Lopez was at a retreat.

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Nomaan Merchant

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  • Is DiNardo a new kind of projector? Look over there! Get those Guys!

    Meanwhile…

    Sex abuse: A report on sexual abuse inside the Catholic Church in Germany says 3,677 people were abused by clergy between 1946 and 2014, two leading German media outlets said Wednesday. Spiegel Online and Die Zeit said the report they obtained — commissioned by the German Bishops Conference and researched by three universities — concludes that more than half of the victims were 13 or younger and most were boys. Every sixth case involved rape and at least 1,670 clergy were involved, both weeklies reported. Die Zeit wrote that 969 abuse victims were altar boys.

  • Evidently, the bishops are continuing to use the “obfuscate and delay” strategy because it is working so well for them. Their “obfuscate and delay” strategy has kept the Church free from scandal so far, so if it works don’t change it. They must be really smart, which would explain why the Holy Spirit has put them in charge.

  • At what point does this stop being an attempt to keep our children safe and start being a gotcha campaign to knock off bishops and cardinals? I don’t much care about McCarrick and DiNardo. I care that there are still priests molesting our children. I hope we don’t spend all our time star-gazing (I cleaned that up) and take our eye off the offenders. Resigning bishops make good headlines, but they don’t necessarily keep children safe.

  • How can you ensure the safety of children if you keep around bishops that won’t take steps to keep them safe?

  • The problem is we haven’t kept our children safe. The Church has a legacy of emotional damaged children (now adults). That legacy has to be addressed in a way that repairs as much as possible the emotional damage that the victims are living with. That begins with transparency and accountability. The institutional Church is a long way from full transparency and full accountability, despite Francis’ theatrics. If Francis was serious, he would not be meeting with a bunch of bishops five months from now. He would be meeting with Marie Collins and Father Tom Doyle tomorrow.

  • It’s clear there’s a certain amount of scapegoating going on here, as well as more than a little selectivity (i.e. some hierarchs seem to be specific targets for criticism). Not to mention, this scandal is now being used by factions within Catholicism against their rivals, as a kind of bludgeon. 

    That said … in order truly to force change on the Church, and truly hold accountable those responsible for the abuse, hierarchs and others above the abusive priests must be part of the equation. Focusing solely on the abusive priests won’t change anything. Arguably, it’s precisely what the Church itself would like people to do; as much it might pain them to admit some priests are criminals, the “a few bad apples” contention fits well within the narrative they’ve presented for the last couple decades. The cold fact is that the amount of abuse that occurred — especially in cases where it was reported, but the abuser was simply shoved elsewhere, so he could abuse again — could not have happened without the hierarchs’ involvement and support. At least some of them must be held accountable … or nothing will be done. 

    I grant that scapegoating and selective prosecution might not seem fair. But really, where else can we go, but to where there’s evidence pointing the way? If people are now coming forward about DiNardo, what else can be done except to look into it and find out what he actually did? Are we to turn away from it because we don’t want to appear “unfair” to him, or something? Really!? 

    Finally, given the PA grand jury report — which found troubling, systemic and nearly-identical wrongdoing in each diocese in the commonwealth — it would not surprise me to find pretty much the same thing had happened in every diocese and order in the US, and even around the world. So pardon me if I assume DiNardo to be “dirty” and thus a fair target for investigation — along with every single other bishop who’s ever held that office. 

    The bottom line is, it’s long past time for the US Justice Department to open a nationwide RICO investigation into every diocese and religious order in the country. The R.C. Church clearly used its organizational structure and power to enable abuse, on a wide scale. In many cases, it did so with the cooperation and consent of local secular authorities — and those need to be examined, too. The PA investigations (the most recent grand jury report, as well as earlier ones into the Altoona and Philadelphia dioceses) make clear this also happened — and for the same reason the hierarchs can’t be let off the hook, neither can the Church’s secular helpers. 

  • I’m all for making bishops accountable. I simply think we can’t let the press lead this charge, because the press will focus on the shiny objects in the room and ignore the victims, except as pawns in their narrative games. I don’t think RNS has any skin in this game, except to feed its stories to other news outlets as if it were any other story. I think it’s important to listen to the victims, every victim, and follow the story wherever it leads us.

  • Sorry if I didn’t explain myself well. I’m all for putting bishops out to pasture, or wherever they belong. I just want to make sure the victims get helped and the children get safer. All the publicity about McCarrick hasn’t done much more than sell news. The press are the johnny-come-lately to this tragedy. There have been people advocating for victims for more than thirty years. We can’t turn away from the victims and focus on the story the press is telling. Since Vigano’ came along, all we hear about is the gossip, but very little about the victims.

  • It’s all falling in on Francis. Everything. His faux heroic “silence” was likley the worst thing he could have done, cementing views that he has a Peronist like grip on power.

    I am so glad it was a Jesuit too.

    We won’t have another Jesuit pope from 250 years.

    On the other hand it’s sad that he was from South America. We won’t have another pope from there for a long long while.

    The more he fights it…the more all these scandals get pulled into his orbit…this week Germany…

    He’s like a black hole..or a reverse Midas. Everything he touches turns to sh$t.

  • Farrell is next, deservedly so. Then maybe Tobin. Too early to tell about Cupich. He’s soft, likely in the orbit of the Mafia.

    Some new documents will likely leak out on Farrell in the coming days from Italy.

    It’s not just about the children….it’s mostly about boys….the German data show the same pattern…and it’s about 20 year old men being spoon-chased into bed.

  • “Everything he touches turns to sh$t”

    The sh$t was already there and has been for 40 years. It was Saint Pope John Paul II the Great, the Patron Saint of Pedophile Priests, who let it get completely out of hand. Francis is just stuck with all the piles and is doing a really bad job of cleaning them up.

  • Re: “I simply think we can’t let the press lead this charge, because the press will focus on the shiny objects in the room and ignore the victims, except as pawns in their narrative games. 

    Apples and oranges. Holding hierarchs accountable has nothing to do with the victims — not directly, anyway. And I’m not sure why you think victims have been “ignored.” In DiNardo’s case, they came forward, and this news is the result of that. Your contention is illogical. 

    Re: “I don’t think RNS has any skin in this game, except to feed its stories to other news outlets as if it were any other story.” 

    It’s a funny thing about the media … they are, like, in the business of releasing stories. I don’t understand why you think this isn’t one. 

    Re: “I think it’s important to listen to the victims, every victim, and follow the story wherever it leads us.” 

    How, exactly, are they not being listened to? And what, exactly, does listening to them have to do with reporting on DiNardo, or any other hierarch in question? You seem to think reporting on the hierarchs’ actions necessarily disses the victims, but I don’t see the connection. Both can be served at the same time. If you think victims haven’t been “listened to” enough, that’s something that can be addressed — but refusing to report on DiNardo, or any other hierarch, has nothing to do with that. 

    Besides … as I pointed out already, reporting on the allegations is, by definition, “listening to” the victims. Because this news originated with them. 

  • ask the boy chasing priests and bishops.

    If most of the abuse is to boys…we should talk about girls? Inane.

  • Francis has had 5 years….and he’s focused on plastic in the oceans and hand carrying ice cream to a few selected poor people.

  • You hit the nail on the head with the “emotional damaged children (now adults)” comment. I, luckily, avoided sexual abuse at the hands of priests or nuns or laity. I did not avoid the emotional and physical abuse and it took decades to recover. The Church and its members need to go away. Quickly.

  • He made a terrible mess in Argentina. It’s why he hasn’t been back.

    He doesn’t want any press on that time of his priesthood.

  • You are absolutely right. Francis has done a terrible job of cleaning up the cesspool that Saint Pope John Paul II the Great, the Patron Saint of Pedophile Priests, created and left him.

  • He had the Church in Argentina under his control…and it got worse.

    Subsidiarity. He, Francis, owns the problem.

    Read up on what’s been revealed about the Church in Argentina.

    It makes Pennsylvania seem puritanical .

    Stop making excuses for Francis simply because you like his agenda. Look at what your agenda has done to your integrity…you’re willing to bend truth to get your agenda. Shame.

  • Benedict was in the s**t; John Paul was in the s**t. In many ways, they were worse and even more complicit in the cover-up. Your Church is in the s**t and has been for more than a thousand years.

  • 5.5 years and it’s all falling apart on the savior Jesuit who calls pe who ask for answers “Satan”.

    Look at what your agenda has done to your integrity.

    Look at what you’re protecting .

  • He’s obsessed with homosexuality. His agenda is to demonize all gay men. He’s the worst kind of dysfunctional, self-loathing closet case there is…

  • I’m not protecting anything. I went public with my case, and took care of business. YOU are part of the problem.

  • Andrea Tornielli, who usually has good sources in Rome, summarizes the Di Nardo situation as follows: “From reading the diocesan communiqué it is clear, therefore, that in both cases an immediate report was made to the civil authorities. In the first case, that of 2001, Di Nardo had not yet arrived as the head of the diocese. It is necessary to wait for further clarification and in-depth investigation before identifying any direct responsibility of the cardinal, even if in all probability the matter could have been better managed.” (La Stampa, Sept. 13, 2018)

    Let’s be sure what we’ve got before we go chasing shiny red hats.

  • I agree we have to listen to the victims. But if the press had not led the charge in the first place, we would not even know there were victims.

  • Hi, AP – I would make a distinction between the Globe, NCR, etc., and the kind of reporting that’s been done around McCarrick and now Di Nardo. As I posted here earlier, Andrea Tornielli reports that there’s nothing to the Di Nardo story just yet, since the diocese seems to have done the mandated reporting. That’s why I will follow the lead of the press that’s been onto this story for a while, as well as Marie Collins, Tom Doyle, et al.

  • Would you like to read about abuse in the LGBTetc community?

    Any idea how the per capita in the two communities, German Catholic and LGBT, compare?

  • The evidence that “(i)t was Saint Pope John Paul II the Great, the Patron Saint of Pedophile Priests, who let it get completely out of hand” is slim indeed, unless you consider the National Catholic Reporter a solid source.

  • Where does “our children” come from?

    You’ve made it pretty clear you’re no fan of the Catholic Church and your children are in high school.

  • That’s right the person who wants the full – non PC – truth to come out is the fault!

    Your agenda has dissolved your frontal lobe.

    Agenda over all.

  • Remember:

    – the ONLY individual who can remove a bishop is the Pontiff and then only with due process

    – there are over 5,500 bishops

    – of that, even including those with the least grounded allegations – e.g, DiNardo – the number of possible malfeasors is in the low hundreds, probably 200 or so

    Some of our posters make it sound like a wave of the wand all the bad actors are gone.

    Well, many of the bad actors are dug in and concealed.

  • What would happen if the abuse dossier that Benedict handed Francis were released, and it named Bergolio as part of the mafia.

    Wouldn’t that have a self-cleaning effect?

  • There appears to be no strategy of “obfuscate and delay”.

    There is simply not a lot to report.

    If you want more, ncronline.org, http://www.aggiornamento.net, and other websites have all the vile gossip from the usual completely unsubstantiated sources that you could possibly want.

    Your concern for the Church you mock is genuinely puzzling.

  • No need to tell us your fantasies. Take a break..or better, go do some work. Go serve someone other than your fantasies.

  • Here’s what we know. A large proportion of catholic priests seem to have a preference for having sex with children in their care. After tens of thousands of boys have come forward, all the deflection in the world is not going to change the fact that the public knows it is not unusual for Catholic priests to have sexual relatiions with adolescent boys, or girls, or pr children, or each other.

    But sure, let’s blame it on mythical Big Gay. It’s so much easier than noticing that there were absuove catholic priests and a lot of enablers.

  • Cardinal Dolan disagrees with you. Take it up with her.

    NY Archbishop Cardinal Dolan tells @camanpour that gay priests are not the sole root of the issue when it comes to sex abuse in the church: “This isn’t about gay or straight. This is about right and wrong … you don’t abuse a minor. You don’t do that” https://cnn.it/2Ok5e7U

  • You should study how bad the problem is with public school teachers. Get some perspective…helps give wisdom to your comments.

  • I just love this. The hyper catholic buzzards are circling, circling, circling, demanding their po7nd of flesh, and willing to tear their church apart just so they can say “I told you so.”

    Of course, it is not really about that. The psychology is so obvious. They want the Great Pruning, so that all of the Catholics who aren’t exactly like them will remain in the church, and be designated as God’s BFFF. All the rest, the less than pure, the less than holy, will be sent on their Mary way,

    It’s what anger undissipated and despite elevated do.

  • The numbers are plain to see in the German report. Same ugly percentages.

    dolan can spin..his donor base demands it..it’s NY! but you can’t spin the numbers away.

  • No…good try to spin

    What we know is that 80+ percent of the victims are males…and that 90% (in the US) are pos-pubescent. twinks in your jargon.

  • A month ago, you claimed that the number of gay priests and sex perps were a tiny fraction. You don’t want the truth. The truth is too uncomfortable for pathetic closet cases like you, who continually obsess about their unresolved homosexuality.

  • You have zero clue about what Catholics think and zero interest in the welfare of any religion, least of all the Catholic Church.

    You made it clear long ago you want yours, you want it now, you want it the way you want it, and nothing else matters.

    It’s what your undissipated anger led you to.

  • Not in my jargon. But it doesn’t matter. Because as I said, we know that a certain percentage of catholic priests seem to think it is normal to have sex with children, under aged boys, adults, and each other…
    and to cover it up.

  • Have you ever had a simple course in descriptive statistics?

    If you’d had you’d delete your innumerate posting

  • Manafort is criminally charged with lobbying for a foreign govt w/o registering as a foreign agent. He faces prison time.

    All RCC bishops ARE foreign agents having pledged absolute allegiance to, and in the employ of the HOLY SEE to lobby for legislation both state and federal which will benefit the Holy See to the detriment of the interests of the citizens of the US.

    They must be forced to register as foreign agents with the State and Justice depts.

    They are all criminal, colluding co-conspirators in the sexual rape and abuse of children – and should ALL be expelled from the US to the fires of Hell from whence they came.

  • Bishops can and have been removed. But the process doesn’t exactly seem speedy or transparent. In any event, there are ways of pushing people out short of a trial — Myers of Newark for example.

  • The structure of the Catholic Church provides no mechanism below the Pontiff to remove a bishop.

    None.

    The process emphasizes due process over speed and because it is an internal process of the Church, there is no requirement for “transparency”.

    In the event that something spectacular occurs, the usual process is to appoint someone to run a diocese while the process goes on.

    Usually those caught with their pants down – in the case of Rembert Weakland literally – the bishop is bright enough to resign.

    Some of the folks in the discussion are not Catholics but are purporting to be, are unfamiliar with Canon Law, and are making some statements that are beyond dubious.

  • In fact he is pointing to the numbers, while you stand in front of them jumping up and down and waving your arms.

  • Apparently it has something to do with the 80% of abuse being adult males on minor males.

    You DO read, correct?

  • My, my …

    In order to read cr-p like that you have to go back a few years to Glenn L Archer and the late 1940s to lates 1960s.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_L._Archer

    “He petitioned the FCC to deny TV licenses to Jesuits because they were an alien organization. He also demanded that Cardinals in the Catholic Church have their citizenship revoked. Furthermore, he asked the House Un-American Activities Committee to investigate the intentions, scope and achievements of Vatican espionage in the United States, charging that the Catholic clergy had learned American secrets hardly anyone except the president knows.”

    Next …. Jews.

  • Appointing someone to run things is pretty much what happened with Myers. He had to have seen the writing on the wall — just like Wuerl.

  • Right.

    The Canon Law reflects the dogmatic basis of the structure of the Catholic Church and is tied directly into notions of divine foundation, apostolic succession, an intrinsically hierarchical Church, and so on.

    Despite the fact that extreme left wing and its zany notions gets a good deal of press, none of that has changed in the last 60 years or so.

  • The data shows that the White European and White Anglo Catholic Churches have issues with sexual expression in their exclusively male clergy. I would hardly be surprised if the fact these Churches share a common Catholic history, culture, and theology doesn’t have a lot to do with it. Jansenist seminary training is part of the problem.

  • What data is that?

    Specifically?

    Jansenism was condemned in the 17th century.

    Here are the major propositions, all which were condemned:

    1. that there are some commands of God which just persons cannot keep, no matter how hard they wish and strive, and they are not given the grace to enable them to keep these commands (the LGBT lobby love this one);

    2. that it is impossible for fallen persons to resist sovereign grace;

    3. that it is possible for human beings who lack free will to merit;

    4. that the Semipelagians were correct to teach that prevenient grace was necessary for all interior acts, including for faith, but were incorrect to teach that fallen humanity is free to accept or resist prevenient grace; and

    5. that it is Semipelagian to say that Christ died for all.

    It smacks of Calvinism and seminary training just about anywhere doesn’t promote these ideas.

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