A former Conroe priest cried in front of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and one of his accusers while delivering an apology for the sexual abuse he has now been charged with, the accuser said Thursday.
The woman, who has asked not to be publicly identified, told other survivors of priest abuse gathered Thursday night that the meeting took place after Manuel La Rosa-Lopez was allowed to continue his priestly duties.
La Rosa-Lopez has been charged with four counts of indecency with a child in connection with two accusers, a man and the woman who shared their stories at the Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library in Montrose.
He is accused of molesting the woman while assigned to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. She was a teenager when the abuse is said to have taken place.
“I know a lot of people who attend Sacred Heart in Conroe,” she said. “That parish is on fire for justice. That means a lot to me.”
She is among three accusers who claim that La Rosa-Lopez inappropriately touched them. The third accuser, who came forward in October, said he was abused as a 12-year-old altar boy at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Houston.
The meeting — hosted by Houston’s Survivors Network of Those Accused by Priests chapter — comes a week before the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is slated to make public a list of priests with credible child sex abuse accusations.
Michael Norris, who heads the Houston chapter, is keeping his expectations low.
“It won’t be complete,” Norris told about two dozen people in the audience.
SNAP President Tim Lennon and researcher Sibohan Fleming said that if the ratio of accused priests in Houston is comparable to what was uncovered in a sweeping Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August, there could be anywhere from 180 to 343 clergy members with similar accusations locally. The number is a startling estimate beyond what Fiorenza revealed in 2004.
He said that from 1950 and up until that point, only 22 diocesan and religious order priests, and four deacons, had been accused of molesting children. During that time, the diocese had also distributed $3.6 million in settlements.
The Houston Chronicle has independently identified up to 20 priests who could be on the list, according to court records, police reports and interviews.
The Pennsylvania report that inspired the latest wave in the decades-long Catholic Church sex abuse scandal accounted for 300 priests who had sexually assaulted more than 1,000 children in six dioceses.
“The lists are coming out. I think it’s a good step but it’s not the end-all. The Attorney General needs to get off his rear end and investigate these priests just like they did in Pennsylvania,” Norris said.
Both Norris and Lennon took the Catholic Church’s definition of credibly accused to task. In Houston, the archdiocese has declined to elaborate on their definition of credibly accused and the method into deciding which priests will make the upcoming lists.
“It’s a bogus argument. For them to decide what is credible or not credible is just plain wrong,” Lennon said.