Diocese Settles Abuse Suit

By Jim McBride
Amarillo Globe-News
February 27, 2003

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo reached a monetary settlement Wednesday with plaintiffs who sued the diocese last year, alleging a former priest fathered a child with a teen-age girl and diocesan officials conspired to cover up sexual abuse of young women and children by other priests.

The settlement, approved Wednesday by 47th District Judge Hal Miner, releases the diocese, Bishop John W. Yanta and former Bishop Leroy Matthiesen from all, past, present or future claims arising out of the suit.

The diocese earlier filed court documents denying the allegations in the lawsuit.

The Globe-News was unable to reach the diocese's attorney, Fred Griffin, and Clay Holcomb, attorney for the plaintiffs, for comment Wednesday.

Under the settlement, the diocese agreed to purchase $27,150 in annuities that will be paid to a girl the suit alleges was fathered by former priest Rosendo Herrera. The payments will begin in 2020 and will continue through 2027.

The Globe-News was unable to reach Herrera for comment.

The diocese also agreed to pay $700 into a trust account for the child's mother until she turns 18 later this year. Each party agreed to bear attorney's fees in the case.

Herrera was placed on administrative leave in 2000 and requested the status of a lay church member, which was given, according to the diocese.

The settlement agreement does not release Herrera from legal or common-law obligations for child support.

Parents of a 17-year-old girl filed suit last year against the diocese, Yanta and Matthiesen.

The suit alleged diocesan officials failed to report incidents of sexual abuse by Herrera as required by Texas law. Herrera was not named as a defendant in the suit.

The suit alleged the diocese conspired to cover up incidents of priest sexual abuse of minors and the diocese reassigned abusive priests.

The suit also claimed:

n Herrera, 37, was removed earlier from a Mexican seminary for having sexual relations with a young girl and was refused ordination by the Lubbock diocese because of a history of sexual problems in Mexico.

n After he was denied ordination in Lubbock, Herrera contacted Matthiesen and was ordained in the Amarillo diocese, but the diocese failed to properly investigate his background.

n In 1996, the Amarillo diocese sent Herrera to St. Louis for counseling related to sexual problems. After returning from St. Louis, Herrera was installed as a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Amarillo and later transferred to St. Laurence Cathedral in Amarillo, where more incidents of improper behavior involving young girls and women in the congregation persisted.

n In April 2000, the plaintiffs sought Herrera's assistance in counseling one of their daughters. Herrera developed improper relationships with all three of the family's daughters and impregnated a 17-year-old girl, who later bore a baby girl.

n Herrera was placed on administrative leave in December 2000, and requested and was granted lay status in March 2001. The suit further alleges that Herrera continued to serve as spiritual adviser to the family until September 2001 when the girl's parents discovered she was pregnant.


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