SNAP wants the truth to be known before mourners gather for a retired Archbishop’s funeral
(For Immediate Release September 27, 2022)
Retired Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston passed away. Due to his history of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse, we hope that church leaders would forego a pompous funeral service in order to convey sympathy to abuse victims and churchgoers who were misled by Fiorenza. Humility is suggested unless the church hierarchy wants to aggravate already grave wounds.
The bishop, a past president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was among the church officials who supported the tough-talk approach during the bishops' summit in Dallas in June 2002, now known as the ‘Dallas Charter.’ He told the Houston Chronicle the day it passed that it was "It was as powerful as we had planned. In effect, I believe it is zero-tolerance."
In reality, our scorecard shows that Bishop Fiorenza has long kept silent about clergy sex crimes, misdeeds, and cover-ups. In 2003, for instance, Fiorenza dismissed sexual abuse allegations against Fr. John Keller by saying, ‘Questioned by the diocese, Father Keller denied abusing the youth but acknowledged he "crossed a proper boundary by holding you in a manner inappropriate for a priest," Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza even wrote to the victim. In 2019, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston announced that it had turned over two complaints to Houston police regarding Prince of Peace Priest John Keller, who is presently being investigated. Keller is still listed as a priest in the Archdiocese as pending investigation. In our opinion, Keller has enjoyed enough freedom from the consequences of his actions and so too has Bishop Fiorenza.
Another mishandled case, Fiorenza, dates back to his days as a diocesan administrator. In 2001, he promised the parents of a child victim that Fr. Manuel La Rosa- would be pulled from duty to seek counseling. He had been accused of assaulting an altar boy about a decade before. With Fiorenza's approval, the priest later returned to ministry at another parish. La Rosa too enjoyed years of freedom enabled by church officials. If the priest went to trial on numerous counts of indecency with a child, prosecutors in Montgomery County identified Bishop Fiorenza as a prospective witness. Instead, LA Rosa accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to ten years in prison. It is astounding that La Rosa is still a priest.
Like practically all of his colleagues in the United States, this departed bishop deserves little or no appreciation. They shielded predators. They put youngsters in danger. They kept crimes from being discovered by authorities. Praising them now may provide a little delight to a few of their relatives. However, it will cause even more pain for those who have already significantly endured. In lieu of flowers, we suggest contributions to survivors who were hurt during Fiorenza's reign or to organizations that support them.
CONTACT: Eduardo Lopez de Casas, SNAP Houston and Board Member ([email protected], 832-641-6319), Mike McDonnell, Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(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)