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Victim of Alleged Abuse by Conroe Priest Is Disappointed in Cardinal DiNardo’s Response

The AP reporter who broke the story tells Houston Matters the attention sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has received because of the recent report by a Pennsylvania grand jury is one of the reasons the alleged victims came forward.

In this March 30, 2017 image taken from video, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo of the Archdiocese of the Houston-Galveston, speaks during an interview in Houston.
John L. Mone/AP
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

All eyes have been on the Catholic Church recently, following a 1,356-page Pennsylvania grand-jury report from last month that exposed sex abuse among the state's priests.

The leader of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, met with the Pope on Thursday to discuss the scandal—but while he was on his way to Rome a new scandal erupted, this one in his own Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The Associated Press (AP) broke the story on Wednesday, reporting that police in Conroe, which is located in Montgomery County, had arrested a priest named Manuel Larosa-Lopez. The AP reported that Larosa-Lopez is accused of fondling two people years ago when they were teenagers and when he was a priest at Conroe's Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

On Thursday, News 88.7 talked with one of those alleged victims, who requested not to be identified by name. The victim said that he met with DiNardo last month to discuss his abuse in Conroe, but he left the meeting fuming.

"The response at the end of the interview and everything from the Cardinal was that, ‘Well, you should've told us earlier, or you should've told us sooner.' And I was like... are you kidding me? You have no idea what my life has been," the victim said. "I wasn't there, I wasn't mentally prepared for that."

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston issued a statement acknowledging it was aware that allegations had been made against the priest by another victim as early as 2001. The Archdiocese said it reported the allegations to the state's Child Protective Services.

Last month, before the Conroe allegations became public, Cardinal DiNardo spoke to the Catholic TV Network EWTN about clergy sex abuse. He was asked to speak directly to survivors of such abuse.

"To all of you, my profound repentance and sorrow for what you have experienced," DiNardo said. "We need to together grow as a church, first in repentance then in our desire and in our action to move ahead where no one in the Church is subject to what you were subject to."

Critics worry that DiNardo and the rest of the Catholic Church will never do enough. One of the Church's most vocal critics in Houston is Michael Norris, who was sexually abused at 10 years old by a priest in Kentucky. Today, Norris lives in Houston and serves as head of the Houston chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, commonly known as SNAP.

Norris said that the grand-jury report in Pennsylvania gave him new hope.

"I really think that we've turned a corner," he said. "What I saw in Pennsylvania—this is different. The fact that the civil authorities are finally investigating and digging and subpoenaing... You can't trust the Church. The Church will not share what's happened. They're not transparent. They refuse to be transparent. So, having the civil authorities dig and find all this, that's great."

Norris said he is trying to generate public pressure on Texas, specifically on Attorney General Ken Paxton, to do what a growing number of other states have done—launch a state investigation of the Catholic Church.

Houston Matters’ Maggie Martin interviewed Nomaan Merchant, the AP reporter who is working on the story about the allegations in Conroe.

Merchant said the two alleged victims "said that they wanted to call attention to what they felt was Cardinal DiNardo’s inaction in taking their allegations seriously."

The attention sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been receiving recently with the release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania , as well as the resignation of Washington, D.C.’s Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, were also motivating factors for both persons, according to the reporter.

Merchant thinks the story could continue unfolding. "There could be other people that come forward," he said. “There could be more that comes out of what Cardinal DiNardo said in meetings with people who accused Father Manuel of abuse before the arrest."