Diocese Denies All Allegations

By Jim McBride
August 9, 2002

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo has filed court documents denying claims in a lawsuit alleging that diocesan officials conspired to cover up alleged sexual abuse by a former priest.

Last month, Mr. and Mrs. John Doe sued the Amarillo diocese, Bishop John W. Yanta and former Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen.

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

In a short legal answer filed in Amarillo, the diocese, Yanta and Matthiesen denied all allegations in the suit and asked that the plaintiffs take nothing in their case.

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

According to the suit, Herrera contacted Matthiesen and later was ordained by the diocese, but the diocese failed to properly investigate Herrera's background.

The suit also alleges that in 1997 the diocese sent Herrera to St. Louis for counseling related to sexual problems.

After he returned from St. Louis, Herrera was installed as a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Amarillo and was moved to St. Laurence Cathedral, where more incidents of improper behavior involving young women and girls persisted within that congregation, according to the suit.

In April 2000, the plaintiffs sought Herrera's counseling for one of their daughters, the suit claims, and the church later removed Herrera from his duties in faculties in November, but did not inform the plaintiffs or others why.

Herrera continued to be a regular counselor and spiritual adviser to the family until September 2001, when they learned their daughter was pregnant, the suit claims. The girl later gave birth to a child.

The plaintiffs allege that diocesan officials were negligent and knew or should have known that he posed an unreasonable risk of harm to young women.

Herrera was placed on administrative leave in December 2000. He requested and was granted permission to be reduced to lay status in March, according to the diocese. The Globe-News was unable to reach Herrera for comment.


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