Diocese, Jane Doe Settle Suit

By Jim McBride
Amarillo Globe-News
November 25, 2004

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo and an unidentified Gray County woman have settled a lawsuit that claimed a former priest harmed her by engaging in wrongful conduct.

The suit was filed last year by Jane Doe against former priest Rosendo Herrera, Bishop John W. Yanta and former Bishop Leroy Matthiessen.

William Wade, an attorney representing the diocese, said Wednesday he had no comment on the settlement. The Globe-News was unable to locate Herrera for comment.

The woman's attorney, J.E. Sauseda of Amarillo, said the diocese and Herrera admitted no wrongdoing under the settlement, which was approved by Visiting District Judge H. Bryan Poff last week. The settlement, he said, involved an adult woman.

"I would say that it's right around $50,000," Sauseda said of the settlement.

"The parties settled their differences and you've got a motion to dismiss."

The suit claimed that various times Herrera committed acts that were injurious, mentally and physically, to the plaintiff, and that he engaged in wrongful conduct while employed by the Catholic Church.

The woman sought damages for personal injuries; past, present and future psychological pain and suffering and mental anguish. The diocese and Herrera had denied the suit's claims.

Last year, the diocese settled another lawsuit involving Herrera that claimed he fathered a child with a teen-age girl and that diocesan officials conspired to cover up sexual abuse within the diocese.

That settlement released the diocese, Yanta and Matthiessen from all past, present or future claims arising out of the lawsuit.

Under the settlement, the diocese agreed to buy $27,150 in annuities that will be paid to the girl the suit alleged was fathered by Herrera.

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

The suit alleged Herrera was removed 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. Herrera eventually was ordained through the Amarillo diocese, but in 1996 he was sent to St. Louis for counseling related to sexual problems, the suit alleged.

After returning to Amarillo, Herrera was installed as a priest at Our Lady of Guadulupe in Amarillo and later was transferred to St. Laurence Cathedral in Amarillo.

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, according to the suit.

The diocese and Herrera had denied the suit's claims in court documents.

In September 2003, the diocese also announced that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allentown, Pa., and the Amarillo diocese reached a $275,000 settlement over allegations of sexual misconduct by another former priest against a Briscoe County boy.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.