Archdiocese Reveals Sex Abuse Claims against Priests
By Abe Levy
San Antonio Express-News
March 10, 2009
The Archdiocese of San Antonio said Monday that it considers "believable" allegations that three former priests sexually abused a male teenager more than 25 years ago.
Louis White, Father Larry Hernandez and Father David Zumaya were associate pastors at San Fernando Cathedral for varying years between 1978 and 1982, when the alleged abuse took place, according to the archdiocese. The victim, who is now in his 40s, also claims Zumaya molested him at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Carrizo Springs.
Zumaya and White were accused of molesting other teens years ago and were punished, said Pat Rodgers, archdiocese spokesman. The men's history was kept secret until now.
The recent allegations were first made public Sunday in the weekly bulletins at the 15 parishes where the men ministered. On Monday, the allegations were also posted on the archdiocese Web site.
The archdiocese said it had enough information to circulate the accusations and release the three men's names. The public notices invite anyone with concerns to contact the archdiocese.
Because the incidents happened so long ago and most of the information came from the victim, "believable" is the appropriate description for the claims, Rodgers said.
It is not known whether the three men deny the recent allegations. The archdiocese says it is unable to communicate with two of them.
Zumaya, who remains a priest, was barred from public ministry in 1998 and is believed to be living in Mexico. White was removed from the priesthood in 1989 and lives in the San Antonio area.
Hernandez belongs to a religious order, which conducted an investigation starting in July and informed the archdiocese the allegation was "believable," Rodgers said, adding that he would not release the victim's name.
"Short of a confession, this is the best we can go on," he said.
The victim has not expressed any desire for legal action or money, Rodgers said, and recently requested counseling, which the archdiocese is paying for.
The statute of limitations to file criminal charges or for the victim to file a lawsuit has expired, an official of the Bexar County district attorney's office confirmed Monday.
The archdiocese informed the office of the allegations in June, which is a common practice, the official said.
The victim contacted the archdiocese in light of Pope Benedict XVI's apology to victims of sex abuse by priests during his historic U.S. visit a year ago, Rodgers said. The pope also called for sex abuse victims to contact Catholic officials.
On the past allegations against Zumaya and White, Rodgers said he didn't know whether they were reported to law enforcement then. He also didn't have details about the abuse, which had occurred sometime since the 1970s, when the two men were priests at parishes in San Antonio and South Texas. The reports of abuse led to both being removed from the ministry.
Rodgers said Zumaya and White were punished before the so-called Dallas charter of 2002 was in effect. Written by U.S. bishops to address an exploding sex abuse scandal, the charter enacted stronger measures of accountability on Catholic institutions, including the reporting of abuse to law enforcement and more transparency.
"We've learned a lot since then, and that's why we're here today talking to you," Rodgers said. "The words of the charter are not just to be punitive, but the charter is about protection and healing and reaching into affected communities."
Hernandez was the only one of the three still in active ministry when the allegations were made last summer. A member of the Baltimore-based Order of the Most Holy Trinity since 1982, he was suspended from public ministry, including his job on the faculty of DeMatha Catholic High School in the Washington, D.C., area. It was made permanent after the investigation, Rodgers said.
Calls to the religious order's high school and provincial office were not returned Monday.
While commending the courage of the man who stepped forward last year, victims' advocates leaders chided the archdiocese for not revealing the allegations sooner.
"It's very disturbing that they knew of earlier allegations — credible ones — against at least two of these three men and they chose to keep them secret," said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "The obvious question is how many others have been accused, suspended or defrocked that they're still keeping hidden."
Profile of accused trio
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