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Sex Abuse Inquiries in the Texas Catholic Dioceses

Published: Nov 09, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes Involving Children

Sex abuse at the hands of priests has become a global issue. In the United States, countless victims have come forward describing how they fell prey to Catholic Church officials who used their authority and community standing to gain the trust of their families. After revelations emerged this year about widespread child sex abuse in the Pennsylvania Catholic Church, the Texas church authorities have volunteered to release the names of suspected sexual predators in the clergy. However, the Texas state authorities have not launched an official criminal investigation.

If you are facing accusations of sexual assault, contact a Houston child sex abuse lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to schedule a free and confidential case consultation today. We can be reached by calling (713) 222-6767, or through our online form.

The State of Texas Declines to Launch Investigation into Church Abuse

Texas has a large Catholic community. Although many victims have complained about abuse in the church, the state government has not taken action. In contrast, this year a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania concluded that more than 300 priests likely abused at least 1,000 parishioners over a 70-year period. Attorneys General in several other states have launched similar investigations.

Why the Attorney General of Texas has not taken action against the Catholic Church is anyone’s guess, but there are two dominating narratives present in this situation. State officials claim that it’s not the role of the office of the Texas Attorney General to launch this type of investigation. Rather, local district attorneys need to investigate and charge individual suspects. Another possibility is that the political influence of the church is still strong enough to dissuade action on the part of the state government.

The Catholic Church Will Release a List of Accused Priests to the Public

In October, the Catholic dioceses in Texas announced they would release the names of clergymen who have been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors since the 1950s. In an effort to engage in accountability and transparency, an unnamed, third-party consultant has been hired to compile and release the list by the end of January 2019. In the meantime, the church encourages any survivors to come forward with their testimony and help complete the list.

The Diocese of Fort Worth started publishing its own list in 2007, which today includes 15 priests, a deacon, and one religious brother. This list is likely to get longer in January, but it may yet fail to show the scope of the problem. One reason is that the list only includes accusations that are credible under the church’s standards. However, some accusations that the church deemed to be non-credible have resulted in criminal prosecutions and eventually convictions. The church may need to revise its standards of what qualifies as a credible accusation.

Another reason why the list might contain fewer names than it should is that the church is only interested in reporting the perpetrators of abuse. Behind each instance of abuse, however, there are usually several clergy members who either enabled or assisted in covering up that acts. If those who accept, enable, and cover up abuse are allowed to continue working for the church, it’s unclear how the church will be able to effectively put an end to the sexual abuse scandal. The Pennsylvania investigation did more than uncover those responsible of committing abuse, but also, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a “systematic cover up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and the Vatican.”

Contact a Child Sex Abuse Lawyer for Help Today

As hard as it may be, when the list of suspected sexual predators in the Texas clergy is released in January, we must not rush to judgment. It’s likely that many guilty people will be omitted from the list, but it’s also likely that some innocent individuals will be included. In fact, everyone named in the forthcoming list must be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we believe that every person accused of a crime deserves to tell their side of the story.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a sexual offense, contact us today at (713) 222-6767.