A New Victim in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Steps Forward
Another victim has come forward to the police alleging sexual assault by Father Manuel Larosa-Lopez while the survivor was an altar boy in the early to mid 1990’s while Fr. LaRosa-Lopez was in seminary. At the time of the abuse, the victim reported the abuse to the local supervising priest but no action was taken to remove Fr. LaRosa-Lopez from the seminary. Instead, Fr. LaRosa-Lopez was ordained into ministry.
If the allegation is true, this shows that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston was first warned about Fr. LaRosa-Lopez as early as the early to mid 1990’s, while still a seminarian. Then, in 2001, one of Fr. LaRosa-Lopez’s victims reported that she had been abused in the diocese. Despite promising to take action, the Archdiocese instead shuffled Fr. LaRosa-Lopez to a new parish seventy miles away. When hearing the priest was still in active ministry, the victim met with Cardinal Daniel Dinardo to express her frustration. With this new allegation, we now know Cardinal Dinardo knew of at least two victims, yet allowed this priest to remain in ministry. Then, ten months ago, another survivor of Fr. LaRosa-Lopez came forward to Archdiocesan officials. Cardinal Dinardo met with this victim on August 10, yet being aware of two other victims, allowed this priest to remain in ministry. Father Larosa Lopez was finally removed from ministry a week prior to being arrested by the police. At that time, the diocese informed parishioners that their priest was “away at a retreat.”
This case reads like so many others that have been heard for the past several decades – a powerful institutional figure is accused, victims are assured that something will be done, and instead the figure is transferred quietly elsewhere. We’ve seen this before. Yet just because this is nothing new doesn’t mean that the actions aren’t just as shocking. How can it be that church officials could ignore multiple accusations and continue to put a potential abuser around children? How could it happen that, even with the all media attention paid to sexual abuse scandals since 2002, that officials would continue to follow the same old playbook? How can church officials not be transparent at the time of the arrest and share the early to mid 1990’s information with the police?
Archbishop DiNardo wasn’t in Houston when the allegations against Fr. LaRosa-Lopez were first levied, but he was in charge in 2011 when the 2001 victim met with him and again ten months ago when this newest survivor stepped forward. Given how Archbishop DiNardo has publicly taken Pope Francis to task for failing to adequately protect children in the church, we think it behooves him to come forward with what he knew and why he chose to leave Fr. LaRosa-Lopez in his position. Citizens in Houston deserve no less. And it also shows that the church cannot be trusted. How many other priests in his diocese have been accused without the knowledge of the parishioners?
Once again, this case is a reminder that anyone coming forward with allegations of abuse should immediately go to independent officials like the police or a trusted therapist, not officials at the very church where they were abused. We hope that anyone else who may have been hurt by Fr. LaRosa-Lopez feels that they are able to come forward, especially since prosecutors in the case have actively asked for as much information as they can get. We encourage anyone in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston who may have seen, suspected, or suffered abuse to come forward and make a report today.
This case is also a clarion call to prosecuting attorneys in counties throughout Texas that the only way to get to the bottom of these scandals are independent investigations with subpoena power, such as the grand jury that was so successful at uncovering the truth in Pennsylvania. Only through such an investigation could the full extent of these cover-ups come to light.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)