4 Allege Priest Molested Them in the "70s

By Allan Turner
Houston Chronicle
July 2, 2010

The Rev. Lawrence Peguero, shown in 1970, pastored Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church.

Male and female members of a former Houston family have sued the Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese, alleging that a now-dead northeast Houston priest repeatedly molested them in the early 1970s.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Houston state district court, accuses the Rev. Lawrence Peguero, who at the time of the alleged incidents was pastor of Our Lady of St. John Catholic Church, 7500 Hirsch. Peguero died in November 2000 at age 79.

The plaintiffs, three women and a man who live elsewhere in Texas and in Georgia, said in the filing that some of the attacks happened in their family's home. They could not be reached for comment Thursday, but their attorney, John Sloan Jr. of Longview, said molestations also occurred on field trips and other occasions.

"There wasn't any specific place or time," he said. "It was systematic and frequent abuse." The archdiocese, Sloan charges in the lawsuit, knew or should have known that the priest was "peculiarly likely" to molest young children.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for medical expenses, physical pain and suffering and mental anguish and impairment.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Jenny Faber said church authorities received no molestation complaints against Peguero until they were contacted by the plaintiffs' lawyer in 2007. She said church-sponsored counseling was offered to but not accepted by the plaintiffs.

Faber said the archdiocese has not been served with the lawsuit and would not comment.

Peguero, a Port Arthur native who became priest at Our Lady of St. John in 1957, was known as a socially and politically conservative cleric who encouraged his Hispanics parishioners to assimilate into Anglo society, said University of Texas-Arlington history professor Roberto Trevino.

Trevino, author of the 2006 book The Church in the Barrio; Mexican American Ethno-Catholocism in Houston, said the priest occasionally backed protests he supported striking farmworkers in the mid-1960s - but typically was "cautious on social issues."

A 1970 Houston Chronicle article spotlighted the priest's work with students in his parish. Peguero said at the time he emphasized education to the teens, himself enrolling at the University of St. Thomas by way of example.



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