Houston law enforcement investigating sex abuse claims against local pries

By Nicole Hensley
February 4, 2019

Father John Keller, then-pastor of St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church, is shown in 1987 giving Holy Communion to a parishioner. He most recently was assigned to Prince of Peace Catholic Community in Houston but was temporarily removed from ministry Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, pending an investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse.
Photo by Steve Ueckert

The Houston Police Department’s Special Victims Division is investigating two allegations of inappropriate touching involving Catholic clergy, just days after the local archdiocese released the names of dozens of priests “credibly abused” or under investigation for child sexual abuse, police and church officials said Monday.

And the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it is taking another look at a 2015 complaint alleging “inappropriate conduct” by another unidentified Catholic priest, an allegation that did not result in criminal charges at the time, said Jason Spencer, sheriff’s spokesman.

Details were not available from police and sheriff’s officials about when the alleged abuse occurred or where.

Houston police spokesman Victor Senties would say only that investigators were made aware of the complaints through a third party and are reaching out to the victims. No police reports have yet been filed.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said Friday it had turned over two complaints to Houston police about Prince of Peace Priest John Keller, who they said is currently under investigation. The abuse is alleged to have happened in the past 25 to 40 years, according to officials.

Keller was removed from ministry Thursday — after celebrating one last Mass at Prince of Peace — pending the results of the investigation, officials said.

The archdiocese has received at least two sex abuse complaints against Keller in more than 10 years. The first known allegation was reported in 2001 by a woman who accused Keller of engaging in an inappropriate relationship with her ninth-grade son. A CBS News report last week identified a man who said he came forward to church leaders in December with a claim of sexual abuse against the pastor.

It was not known if the claims now under investigation by Houston police are either of the those alleged victims.

The archdiocese released the names Thursday of 40 priests “credibly accused” of child sex abuse. Keller is one of two priests identified by the archdiocese as being under investigation. Also named was former Conroe priest Manuel La Rosa-Lopez who is charged with four counts of indecency with a child in Montgomery County.

The list of names was part of a statewide release by Catholic officials that date back to the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the accused priests transferred from church to church and most of them are now dead.

At Prince of Peace Sunday morning, Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz was met with applause as he addressed the latest allegations against Keller with congregants.

“Father has only been alleged he did something,” Sheltz said. “The system has to work itself out.”



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