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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Cardinal meeting with Pope accused of ignoring abuse

Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has been arrested on sexual-abuse charges

Pope Francis is in the eye of a storm about sexual abuse in the Catholic church. EPA
Pope Francis is in the eye of a storm about sexual abuse in the Catholic church. EPA

As US Catholic leaders head to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis about a growing church abuse crisis, the cardinal leading the delegation has been accused by two people of not doing enough to stop a priest who was arrested this week on sexual-abuse charges.

The two people said they reported the priest and met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. One of them says she was promised in a meeting with Cardinal DiNardo that the priest would be removed from any contact with children, only to discover that the priest remained in active ministry at another parish 110 kilometres away.

The priest, Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, was arrested on Tuesday by police in Conroe, Texas. Both people who made the accusations are co-operating with police.

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La Rosa-Lopez, 60, is accused of fondling both people when they were teenagers and he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe. He is charged with four counts of indecency with a child. Each count carries a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison.

La Rosa-Lopez is now the pastor at St John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond. He is also the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Hispanics.

The archdiocese issued a statement on Wednesday confirming that both people had come forward to report abuse by La Rosa-Lopez, one of them in 2001. The archdiocese said it reported both allegations to the state Child Protective Services, and said it was unaware of any other “allegations of inappropriate conduct involving minors” against the priest.

A spokesman for CPS on Wednesday could not immediately confirm if the reports had been made. La Rosa-Lopez did not immediately return a phone message left on Wednesday.

“To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions,” the archdiocese said.

In addition to his responsibilities in Houston, DiNardo is head of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a position that has made him a prominent figure in the church’s response to a new wave of allegations that Catholic leaders covered up sexual abuse. He is meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday at the Vatican.

Both accusers who say they went to DiNardo are now in their 30s. Both people asked that their names be withheld.