(April 6, 2019) A Conroe, Texas priest was named in a civil lawsuit yesterday in a sex abuse case filed in Houston’s Harris County Courthouse by Matthews & Associates Law Firm. The plaintiff – referred to as “J.R.” in the petition – is an adult male who now lives in Galveston. Defendants are the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Conroe; and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston, Houston – which employed Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, who was known as “Fr. Manuel” when he was working for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in Conroe.
Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez first came to the greater pubic’s attention when he was arrested by Conroe police last year for allegedly sexually abusing minors.
J.R. vs. Sacret Heart Catholic Church
The lawsuit petition reads that “Fr. Emanuel and other employees of the Defendants (were) obligated to arrange, render, and coordinate the religious and educational care of the children enrolled in (the school).”
The Defendants had, says the petition, “total responsibility for the protection and prevention of the numerous acts of sexual mental and physical abuse by (clergy) member, Fr. Manuel.”
The Sacred heart Catholic church diocese is charged with having knowledge of Fr. Manuel’s sexual abuse of several students, and then hiding that knowledge from civil authorities and putting him back in circulation, where he was able to abuse other children.
Father Manuel LaRosa-Lopez
J.R., the petition alleges, was abused in 2000, eight years after the first incidence of Fr. Manuels’ sexual abuse of minors was first revealed to church officials.
In 1992, a sixth grade boy accused Fr. Manuel of inappropriately touching him. The church then hired an attorney to investigate whether the Church was required to notify Child Protective Services. Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza wrote to an attorney saying a psychological exam would be conducted on Fr. Manuel before he was re-admitted into the seminary. The wayward priest then spent nine months in the Shalom Recovery Center. He was re-admitted to the seminary in the spring of 1993.
In 1999 and 2000, an underage male and female accused Fr. Manuel of sexual abuse. The female victim and her family reported the abuse in 2001 and then moved to Israel. Fr. Manuel then went back to the Shalom Recovery Center for nine more months, from April 2001 to Jan. 2002.
Boy Abused during Confession
J.R., says the petition, was abused by Fr. Manuel during the summer of 2000. Then 15, the boy had gone to make a confession, as many Catholics regularly do, to a priest in the confessional booth. Rather than hearing J.R.’s confession and then offering guidance or absolution through an assignment of prayers and penance, Fr. Manuel attempted to engage the boy in a profane conversation about sex with a same-sex partner.
J.R. said that he was confused by the questions and wondered if this was part of a new confessional process. The 15-year-old did not respond to any of the several questions the priest asked him. Fr. Manuel then opened the partition window between them in the booth and exposed himself to J.R.
J.R. came forward after he saw in the news that Fr. Manuel had been arrested. Shortly before that arrest, J.R. had confided his abuse at the hands of Fr. Manuel to a therapist.
Statute of Limitations
Sexual abuse cases brought more than two years after the alleged crime can often be successfully defended under statute of limitations (SOL) laws in Texas. However, J.R’s. lawyer David Matthews argues in the lawsuit charges that fraudulent concealment nullifies the church’s SOL protections in this case. The petition reads:
“Defendants are prevented from relying on any statute of limitations defense by virtue of their acts of fraudulent concealment, because of Defendants’ knowledge of the wrongful acts of Fr. Manuel, while allowing him contact with trusting children, their representations that Fr. Manuel was fit for priesthood and supervision of children, their silence on his known sexual abuse, and their fixed purpose to conceal the wrong.“
Texas Priest named in Sex Abuse Lawsuit
The petition also demands a jury trial. The case is J.R., Plaintiff v. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Conroe and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.