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As Cardinal DiNardo Leads A Crucial Meeting Of Bishops, Survivor Advocates Demand His Resignation

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says the head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lacks “leadership” and “moral authority.” The archdiocese said in a statement DiNardo will not resign.

In this Nov. 12, 2018, file photo, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, listens to a reporter’s question during a news conference at the USCCB’s annual fall meeting in Baltimore.

As Cardinal Daniel DiNardo prepares to lead a crucial meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on how to deal with abuse cases, a survivor advocacy group is asking for his resignation over the alleged mishandling of several cases that have occurred in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Members of the Houston chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) plan to hold a rally at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston, to demand that DiNardo steps down as head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Michael Norris, leader of the Houston chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Michael Norris, leader of the Houston chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

In an interview with Houston Matters, Michael Norris, who leads SNAP in Houston, said DiNardo "doesn't have the leadership" to head the USCCB and he lacks the "moral authority" because of several alleged local cases of sex abuse in which, according to the advocacy group, he has shown leniency toward accused priests.

Norris talked about the alleged abuse cases by Manuel La Rosa-Lopez a former priest at Conroe's Sacred Heart Church, and other cases involving Reverend John T. Keller at Prince of Peace Catholic Community in northwest Houston and Father Jesus Suarez, who worked at Houston's St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church. Suarez also served at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe.

Latest accusation

Norris also pointed at the latest allegation against DiNardo. It was made last week by Laura Pontikes, a Houston construction executive. She says the cardinal allowed Monsignor Frank Rossi, who for a time was second in command at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, to move to another parish after she reported that he lured her into a sexual relationship. "He's part of the problem, he's not part of the solution," Norris said. "It's time for him to step down and allow someone to get in there who can actually take care of the problem."

The archdiocese has said it acted proactively in these cases by suspending the priests and ordering them to undergo therapy, and is cooperating with law enforcement.

Archdiocese responds

On Monday afternoon, the archdiocese sent out a statement saying DiNardo “will not resign from anything” and, instead, “will continue working with like-minded reformers at all levels of the Church to fight the evil of abuse in all its forms.”

The statement added that, as president of the USCCB, the cardinal has shown an “aggressive leadership” that has helped lay the foundation for a recent decree by Pope Francis making bishops directly accountable either for acts of sexual abuse or efforts to cover such behavior up.

“Here at home,” the archdiocese added, “Cardinal DiNardo has also acted swiftly and justly in removing priests from active ministry each time he was presented with credible evidence of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior.”

Baltimore meeting

The meeting of the Catholic Bishops will take place in Baltimore starting Tuesday. The bishops will be guided by the groundbreaking new law issued by Pope Francis on May 9 that the archdiocese’s statement referenced. It requires priests and nuns worldwide to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. It also calls for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop to be reported to the Vatican and a supervisory bishop in the U.S.

SNAP said the pope’s edict was a step forward, but urged the U.S. bishops to go further by requiring that church staff report their suspicions to police and prosecutors in addition to reporting internally. SNAP also said the bishops should turn over any files and records related to sex abuse to their state attorneys general for investigation, and it urged the bishops to ensure that all U.S. dioceses release lists of priests, nuns and other church staff alleged to have committed sexual abuse.

Beyond the pope’s edict, the bishops will consider creating an independent, third-party reporting system to which allegations of abuse could be filed.

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