The Texas Catholic
Thirty-one priests who served in the Diocese of Dallas between 1950 and the present day have been deemed credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor following a lengthy investigation by former law enforcement investigators and a local review board, Bishop Edward J. Burns announced on Thursday, Jan. 31.
The announcement in the Diocese of Dallas, presented in a pastoral letter to the Catholic faithful in the local church, coincides with similar information of “credible allegations” against priests being released in the other 14 Texas dioceses on the same day as per an agreement by the 15 bishops who comprise the Texas Catholic Conference.
Bishop Burns said that a “credible allegation” is one that after review of reasonably available relevant information in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board or other professionals, there is reason to believe is true.
“These have been very difficult days within the Church and the Diocese of Dallas,” Bishop Burns said in the letter.
“Today, I am following through on a commitment I made in October to provide the names of those priests who have been the subject of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the Diocese during the period from 1950 to the present,” he said. “The list of names I have provided you reflects the recommendations of our Diocesan Review Board, and I am grateful for their diligence, integrity, and expertise.
“Although I have also provided this list of names to law enforcement,” he said, “inclusion on this list does not indicate that a priest is guilty of, been convicted of, or has admitted to the alleged abuse.”
He was scheduled to speak to media later in the day on Jan. 31.
The bishop said the process to compile the list in Dallas began with a group of former state and federal law enforcement officers who were hired last year to review the files of the 2,424 priests who had served in this diocese since 1950. The investigators, the bishop said, identified files which contained credible allegations of the sexual abuse of minors. He said the Diocesan Review Board, which includes local experts in law enforcement, clinical psychology, law, and medicine, then reviewed those allegations.
The release of the names comes after months of reports from other parts of the country and world about clergy sex abuse that have rocked the universal church.
In August 2018 a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found that more than 300 priests in six dioceses were linked to sex abuse claims by more than 1,000 victims over a 70-year period, and calls by numerous bishops and clergy across the country for due diligence and transparency.
The Texas announcements preceded allegations of sexual abuse by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, formerly of Washington, D.C., and a former cardinal, popular prelate and longtime confidant of popes, in his previous assignments in New York and New Jersey. Adding to the controversy were questions as to when the Vatican, including Pope Francis, first knew about the allegations and whether Vatican officials ignored the claims.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report also called into question the handling of abuse cases by Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington, when he was the bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Cardinal Wuerl has denied any wrongdoing and offered his resignation to Pope Francis in October, but remains in Washington as apostolic administrator until a successor is named.
Last summer in Dallas, shortly after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop Burns addressed parishioners at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff to tell them that their former pastor, Father Edmundo Paredes, had been credibly accused of sexual abuse of three minors in years past and that he also was suspected of theft of funds from the church. Law enforcement officials have been looking for Father Paredes, but officials believe he may have fled to his native Philippines. Father Paredes is on the list.
Earlier this month, media reports revealed a lawsuit against Father Timothy Heines, a priest who served in various parishes in Dallas, by an adult male who said that Father Heines had sexually abused him as a minor. Father Heines is suspended and is on the list.
The list includes the names of at least one priest already known to Dallas-area Catholics—Rudy Kos—and includes names of other clergy deceased, convicted, laicized or suspended, including Father Jeremy Myers. His name being included on the list was a surprise to the parishioners at St. Mary Catholic Church in Sherman, where he had been the pastor more than 20 years before his removal last year.
Bishop Burns met with the St. Mary parishioners on Jan. 30, the evening before the release of the list, to tell them that allegations against Father Myers had been found to be credible, that the pastor had offered his resignation and that it had been accepted. Bishop Burns said that the ultimate goal is to protect children, but numerous parishioners left the pews crying, while others, visibly shaken, defended Father Myers and said they did not believe the allegations.
The bishop had offered prayers before and after his announcement, and after answering a few questions, he then talked to numerous parishioners individually as he walked toward the back of the church, offering blessings and prayers.
Mike and Lisa Maberry said they moved to Sherman from Dallas a decade ago and always found Father Myers to be pastoral especially after Mike Maberry suffered a heart attack.
“Nobody believes this,” Lisa Maberry said to The Texas Catholic.
Bishop Burns’ presence at St. Mary in Sherman was the latest in his pledge to remain at the forefront of talking to parishioners directly about an issue at their parish.
In August, the bishop spoke to parishioners at St. Cecilia Catholic Church about their former pastor, pledged transparency and said that he would return. In October, he returned to the parish for a special Ceremony of Sorrow. It was a prayer service, he said, to express shame and deep remorse over the egregious sexual misconduct committed by some within the Catholic Church. He conducted a listening session immediately afterward, and over the next two weeks went to three other parishes in the diocese for similar prayer and “town hall” meetings.
At each he introduced members of his staff, in particular the Victims Assistance Coordinator, Barbara Landregan. Each parish, he reiterated his call that if anyone had been or knew of someone being abused by a member of the clergy or others to report it, as required by law, to civil authorities.
He apologized for the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults at the hands of those who were entrusted to protect them and he lashed out at “wolves in shepherds’ clothing” for their betrayal of their flocks. But, he also said, “do not allow a man to separate you from our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps the most widely publicized case of sexual abuse of a minor in the Diocese of Dallas is that of Rudy Kos. In July 1997, a Dallas County jury found the diocese liable for failing to act on years’ of warnings about Kos, accused of sexual misconduct with 11 altar boys. The diocese later reached an agreement with the victims for approximately $35.6 million, with the diocese paying $11.6 million, with insurance carriers paying the remainder.
A year later, Kos was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of former altar boys and was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2002, U.S. bishops convened in Dallas and drafted what came to be known as the “Dallas Charter,” which instituted policies and procedures to safeguard children and young people. For the Diocese of Dallas, that includes screening and criminal background checks of priests, deacons, seminarians, lay employees and volunteers serving in the diocese and mandatory attendance of annual training sessions.
“As we look back at the Church’s history, our failure to protect our most vulnerable from abuse, and hold accountable those who preyed on them, fills me with both sorrow and shame,” the bishop said in his pastoral letter. “But the painful yet necessary process that began in 2002 in this Diocese has also led to much-needed reforms that we continue to rigorously implement today. Going forward, we must remain vigilant.”
He encouraged any additional victims to report it to law enforcement or by calling the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 and contact Barbara Landregan, the Victims Assistance Coordinator, at 214-379-2812 or firstname.lastname@example.org
He said that he was encouraged that the “an overwhelming majority of the priests in this Diocese are, and have been, good and holy men, and I remain thankful for their witness” and asked for prayers for the priests and those in the seminaries.
“To those of you who have experienced family or friends who have walked away from the faith because of this scandal in the Church, please remind them that we must never separate ourselves from Jesus because of Judas,” he said.
“As your shepherd, I pray that you stay strong in the faith and continue to grow in your relationship of our Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” he said. “We pray through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe that God our Father will guide us a through these difficult days.”
Over the past several months, some pastors have been talking privately to their parishioners, many delivering homilies and others writing about it in parish bulletins.
Msgr. Henry Petter, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Coppell, said in a letter to parishioners the day before the release of the list that “when I read about the abuses committed by priests and bishops, I just wanted to curl up in a corner and hide.”
But he said to remember Christ’s story, which is one of hope.
“Without Christ’s Passion, we wouldn’t have the Resurrection. Catholics could not allow the darkness to remain and the only way to remove darkness is with light. Making this list of names public is that light,” he said.
And he stressed the need for the laity to hold priests accountable.
“We must not fall into the trap of clericalism, where priests might be tempted to revel in the status and power often given by many laity in the Church,” he said. “We are all sinners relying on the grace of our Savior.”
The list of Diocese of Dallas can be found at www.cathdal.org.