Both victims said they were mistreated by Father Manuel La-Rosa Lopez.
HOUSTON – A $ 20 million lawsuit filed in federal court in Houston by two alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse extends all the way to Rome.
“It starts at the top, which is the Vatican,” lawyer Tahira Khan Merritt said.
Merritt, along with lawyer Felecia Peavy, represents two adult clients identified as Jane and John Doe, who claim to have been sexually abused as children by father Manuel La-Rosa Lopez. The incidents reportedly occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s while the priest was serving Sacred Heart Parish in Conroe. Their accusations led to criminal charges of indecency with a child against La-Rosa Lopez. He was arrested in September 2018 and the criminal trial is expected to begin next month.
Civil lawsuits that despite multiple reports of sexual misconduct, from the time La-Rosa Lopez was a seminarian, church officials did not notify the police. Instead, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and Cardinal Daniel Dinardo sent him back to ministry, according to the lawsuit.
“When you have a wolf in the shepherd’s clothes, you have to do something to protect the innocent, and in this case the innocent were not protected,” Merritt said.
Merritt accused the church of a “civil conspiracy” and a model and practice of covering up clergy sexual abuse of children.
“Parishioners have not been informed, the public has not been informed and the police have not been informed,” she said.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has issued the following statement regarding the trial:
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston learned of the trial late in the afternoon from the media. We take these allegations very seriously and continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse.
We are unable to comment further at this time.
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