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Houstonians demand increased accountability from Catholic Church

September 9, 2018

About a dozen protesters called on the Catholic Church to address abuse by clergy as they handed out flyers Sunday morning outside the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests members and supporters held signs that said “Protect our Children!” and “Speak Up, Speak to Police, Speak Out!” as parishioners left 9.a.m. mass.

“What we’re asking for is transparency,” said Michael Norris, leader of the Houston chapter of SNAP and member of the national board of directors.

Norris, who is a survivor of sexual assault by a priest in Louisville, Kentucky, is also asking for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and for the removal of two diocesan priests who have been accused of abuse.

“You will find the same filth that we found in Pennsylvania right here in Houston, Texas,” he said.

Julie Rhoades, an attorney with Matthews and Associates, has represented survivors of sexual abuse by priests for 10 years. She said her boss encouraged her and other lawyers at the firm to attend and advocate to raise awareness.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I had my first cases back in the late 2000s. It doesn’t seem like things have changed much since then. I thought they would. I thought things were better. And then you hear one more scandal breaks after another.”

Some parishioners, as they headed into the cathedral for 11 a.m. mass, took the flyers, titled “Please help us protect kids!” A woman skimmed the paper, folded it and placed it in her purse. Another man crumpled it into a ball and put it in his pocket.

Daniel Cabrera, who has been a member of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for about two years, said the recent reports of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania shocked him, but he believes the accused priests will be held accountable.

“They’re human too, and they’re going to be facing the same consequences that anyone of us would,” he said.

In an upcoming column in the Texas Catholic Herald, dated Sept. 11, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston Daniel Cardinal DiNardo wrote that he shares the anger and rage felt by survivors and asks for prayers to bring accountability to the church.

“I realize in spite of the progress made in 2002 that we, the bishops of the United States, have failed you,” he said. “We can and must do better.”

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