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Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged error in allowing accused Iowa priest to serve after sex abuse claims, report says

October 9, 2018

Two years before Cardinal Daniel DiNardo joined the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, he acknowledged his church’s mishandling of a sex abuse case, according to a report Monday.

In 2002, DiNardo issued an apology on behalf of the Diocese of Sioux City for allowing Rev. George McFadden to remain a priest after he was accused of molesting children, KHOU-TV reported.

“In hindsight, that was a mistake that we regret,” wrote DiNardo, then the bishop of the Iowa church. “In today’s world, that mistake would not have been made.”

DiNardo’s statement addressed the spate of claims against McFadden that publicly surfaced in 2002 during his tenure in Iowa. The priest was forced to retire in 1992 after serving nearly 50 years at six parishes. The future Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston cardinal and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops president joined the Iowa diocese in 1998 and left for Texas in 2004.

At the time, the Des Moines Register reported DiNardo as explaining the priest was removed from his parish and sent to Maryland for therapy in 1991. The bishop acknowledged that the abuse claims were never reported to law enforcement “because it was so long after the events took place.”

In a statement to KHOU-TV, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said DiNardo was unable to address the Sioux City case because of his trip to Rome. On Monday, DiNardo was expected to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The church noted that McFadden’s history of abuse took place before DiNardo’s time in Sioux City, according to the statement.

“As more information about George McFadden’s history of abuse prior to 1985 became known, Bishop DiNardo publicly stated it had been a mistake for the Sioux City Diocese to have previously permitted McFadden to have even a very limited function in the diocese,” the statement to the TV station read.

“Although McFadden had already been removed from parish ministry, Bishop DiNardo terminated all of McFadden’s priestly faculties in 2002 — and in 2003 initiated the process to have McFadden completely removed from the priesthood. Bishop DiNardo was assigned to the Diocese of Galveston-Houston in 2004.”

The Archdiocese did not respond to requests for comment Monday night.

The leader of Houston’s Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests argues that DiNardo’s 2002 apology was empty based on how he handled the more recent sex abuse claims against Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, the Houston-area priest charged with four counts of indecency with a child.

“I’m struggling to see how he’s handled this differently,” said Michael Norris. “He allowed (La Rosa-Lopez) to continue in his ministry for 14 years knowing he had been accused. Shame on him.”

The sexual assaults La Rosa-Lopez is accused of happened between 1998 and 2000, when he was assigned to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. The priest was ordered to undergo therapy after the 2000 assaults. He was reassigned to a church in Richmond in 2010 — while DiNardo was in charge, court records show.

The victims in the criminal investigation — who were identified in court records by the initials J.H. and M.V. — met with DiNardo and have both said the cardinal did not appear to take them seriously.

The male victim, J.H., told a Conroe investigator he met with DiNardo on Aug. 8 and was told the church lodged a report with Conroe Police Department on his behalf. The investigator found no records of the report.

The family of the female victim, M.V., confronted the church about La Rosa-Lopez’s alleged relationship with the girl in 2000, prompting his removal from the parish. More than a decade later, she came forward to authorities because of “the perceived duplicity of Cardinal DiNardo” after her own meeting with the church leader and his conflicting remarks on priest sex scandals.

A third accuser last week said La Rosa-Lopez molested him in the mid-1990s at a Houston church.

La Rosa-Lopez is slated to return to court in Montgomery County on Tuesday morning.

nicole.hensley@chron.com

@nkhensley

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