Priest accused of sexual misconduct asks Diocese of Corpus Christi to support
By Eleanor Dearman
March 27, 2019
|Msgr. Michael Heras resigned as pastor of St. Peter Prince of the Apostle's Parish in Corpus Christi after allegations of inappropriate conduct. |
A Corpus Christi priest accused of sexual misconduct wants to know how the Diocese of Corpus Christi is backing up its claims against him.
Attorneys for Msgr. Michael Heras and the diocese were in court Wednesday on a 2018 court filing by Heras' lawyer Andrew Greenwell.
In it, Heras asks for documents and possible depositions related to Heras' "alleged 'admission' to child abuse and sex with a minor." In another court filing from 2018, Hera asks for sanctions — the payment of related court fees — in response to allegations Heras admitted to the abuse.
Heras denies making such admissions, the documents state.
"Heras asserts that he has never sexually abused a minor, abused a minor in any way, nor ever molested sexually any victim, underage or otherwise," one document states.
On Wednesday 319th District Judge David Stith consolidated those matters with a defamation lawsuit Heras filed earlier this month.
Heras is among two priests who filed lawsuits against the diocese and Bishop Michael Mulvey earlier this month. The priests were named by the diocese in a list of priests who had been "credibly accused" of sexual misconduct.
"Defendants knew the statement was false and acted with reckless disregard for the truth," both lawsuits state. "The publication of the statement was made with malice."
Heras and Fr. John Feminelli are seeking up to $11 million each in damage. Both suits state there's "no evidence that he was credibly accused of the crime of sexual abuse of a minor."
"Defendants' statement was false because (Heras) was, and is, innocent of the alleged crime of sexual abuse of a minor," Heras' lawsuit states.
Attorneys for the diocese argue in a court filing that Heras' requests for documents discussed Wednesday came after Mulvey advised priests that the list of clergy members "credibility abused of sexual abuse of a minor" would come in January 2019.
Greenwell said the request for documents is now moot in light of the defamation suit, but that the sanctions request will likely carry over.
"Eventually this matter more or less got nullified or mooted because the defamation case was brought which makes the document that we were searching (for) in this other proceeding, also available to us in the main lawsuit," Greenwell said. "So there's no sense having two cases and that's why the judge brought them both together."
More than 20 Diocese of Corpus Christi clergy members were "credibly" accused of sexual abuse of minors.
Heras was ordained into the Diocese of Corpus Christi in 1984 and removed from the ministry is June 2014.
Complaints of inappropriate conducts were submitted to the Nueces and San Patricio County district attorney's offices, and he was placed on leave pending the diocese's investigation.
The alleged conduct happened around 25 to 30 years before the complaints were submitted, a 2014 Caller-Times article states. Criminal investigations' weren't pursued and Heras resigned as pastor of St. Peter Prince of the Apostles Parish in Corpus Christi.
The attorneys are expected to be back in court in the coming months. A hearing date was not set Wednesday.