$10M lawsuit filed against Vatican, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston after priest accused of child sexual abuse
GALVESTON, Texas – A $10 million lawsuit has been filed against Holy See and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and its Cardinal, Daniel N. DiNardo, on behalf of the parents of a child they say was sexually abused by Rev. Phi Thanh Nguyen in November 2018, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Nguyen sexually abused the child when she was 10 years old while attending the Nazareth Academy in Victoria, Texas. The lawsuit states that the child said that Nguyen was touching her during mock confession.
The lawsuit names Holy See because “Nguyen would not have been able to ingratiate himself at Nazareth Academy,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit also accuses the Vatican of having a history of burying the criminal behavior of Nguyen and others like him. Houston attorney Felecia Y. Peavy, who is representing the family, stated that the Vatican’s policies protected Nguyen and kept him employed.
“Not only has The Vatican repeatedly placed the reputation of the Church and protection of its perpetrators above the well-being of children, it has failed to establish clear rules, mechanisms and procedures for mandatory reporting to law enforcement of all suspected cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation within its organization,” Peavy stated in a press release. “Additionally, the Vatican has consistently refused to address the epidemic of child sexual abuse by priests within its own ranks. It could have done so and still, could do so by promoting the reform of statutes of limitations in countries where statutes impede survivors from seeking justice. Instead of clinging to policies promoting secrecy, cover-ups and protection of the Vatican’s own reputation, The Vatican is willing to let its victims descend into hopelessness and to suffer there the rest of their lives.”
The parents of the child said the lawsuit is to ensure no other child will go through what their daughter has.
“Doe’s parents filed this lawsuit to ensure no other child will suffer life-altering injuries as their daughter has. They are filing this civil case against the Archdiocese and the Holy See to hold them accountable for Father Phi’s sexual misconduct,” said attorney Tahira Khan Merritt, of Dallas, who is also representing the family.
On Thursday, Eduardo Lopez De Casas, leader of the clergy abuse survivors organization, SNAP Houston, is standing in support of the family involved.
“Once again, the church has put its reputation above the protection of children.” SNAP Director, Eduardo Lopez De Casas said.
He said his and SNAP Houston’s goal are to spread the word and encourage any victims of Nguyen to come forward and make a report to the police.
“It has been several years since the abuse was first reported to church officials, and yet nothing has been done to protect other children in Victoria and beyond,” Lopez de Casas said. “We are calling on church officials to remove this priest and do outreach to encourage other victims or witnesses to come forward and get help.”
The child’s mother released the following statement Thursday:
Today is a very difficult day for our family, we are grateful and forever indebted to Ms.Peavy and Ms.Merrit for helping us begin the process required to receive justice for our daughter. But it is just that, the beginning of a long battle the Roman Catholic Church continues to use to re-victimize victims of clergy abuse. Victims of clergy abuse do not want to sue the Roman Catholic Church for monetary gain, for us, we want our happy little girl back. We will never know who she would have been had Phi Nguyen not sexually assaulted her at the age of 10. He and the people who enabled him set her life on a completely different path, a destructive one, she didn’t deserve. Victims of clergy abuse sue in civil court because we are left no other recourse.
Phi Nguyen is a predator, we do not believe for one second that our daughter is the only child he has violated. We want those victims to know that his shame is not yours to carry. It is okay to speak up, sadly, you are not alone. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)has continuously provided great support throughout this entire journey, we are confident that any victims in need of someone to reach out to could contact SNAP for the same support we received.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston released the following statement on Thursday regarding the allegations and lawsuit:
While we have not been served with a new lawsuit and do not ordinarily comment on pending litigation, we do offer the following to clarify public statements that have been made by others:
- The Plaintiff’s initial complaint was made to the school located in the Diocese of Victoria, which the minor attended.
- We have been informed that the initial complaint to school officials in Victoria did not include any allegations of sexual abuse.
- When the allegation of sexual abuse was made it was investigated by the police authorities in Victoria and no criminal charges were brought against Father Phi Nguyen.
- The Plaintiff previously filed a lawsuit in Victoria County, which was dismissed without prejudice on their own motion.
In accordance with current Archdiocesan policies Father Phi Nguyen has been out of ministry since April 2019 when the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston received notification of the sexual abuse allegation.