Former deacon's $1 million lawsuit challenges Texas diocese's sex abuse claim
By Kevin J. Jones
Catholic News Agency
March 27, 2019
|The Cathedral of Christ the King in Lubbock, Texas. |
A former Catholic deacon has charged that the Diocese of Lubbock wrongly named him on its list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and has filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million.
Lubbock resident Jesus Guerrero has filed a lawsuit that rejected claims he had ever been accused of sex abuse or misconduct. The lawsuit described him as “a faithful servant of God in the Catholic Church his entire life,” the news site EverythingLubbock.com reports.
The plaintiff charged that the diocese committed libel and defamation against him. His lawsuit said his reputation was destroyed and he has become the object of contempt and ridicule.
Lucas Flores, the Diocese of Lubbock’s director for the office of communications, told CNA the diocese is not commenting on ongoing litigation.
In October 2018 all 15 dioceses in Texas pledged to release names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, dating as far back as the 1950s.
The Diocese of Lubbock released its list Jan. 31, saying Guerrero had been credibly accused of “sexual abuse of a minor.” It reported that he had been permanently removed from ministry in 2008.
Guerrero was the only deacon on the diocese’s list. Four priests were listed, including two who are deceased.
“Currently, there is no pending litigation against the Diocese of Lubbock for any matter pertaining to the sexual abuse of a minor,” the diocese said when it released the list. “However, in spite of our best efforts, we realize there could be an omission.”
The lawsuit said that before Guerrero’s name appeared on the list, he “had never been accused of sexual abuse and/or misconduct against a minor, nor had he ever been investigated for any sexual abuse and/or misconduct against a minor.”
In the material accompanying its Jan. 31 list, the diocese said a name “only appears on the list if the diocese possesses in its files evidence of a credible allegation.” The diocese said its standard of a credible allegation means that “after review of reasonably available, relevant information in consultation with the Diocesan Review Board or other professionals, there is reason to believe is true.”
The diocese said Guerrero was assigned to Our Lady of Grace parish in Lubbock from 1997 to 2003, suspended for unstated reasons in 2003, then assigned to San Ramon parish in Woodrow from 2006 to 2007. He was permanently removed from ministry the next year.
In response to the release of the list, the Lubbock Police Department said it was investigating the allegations and searching its records and but did not appear to have any past or current investigations of abuse within Lubbock for those named, the NBC news affiliate KCBD11 reported in January.
“With no information provided about where or when these allegations took place, it is unclear if the allegations were reported to other agencies,” the police said.
At the time the names of accused clergy were released, Bishop Robert Coerver wrote that the release “will be a source of pain for victims, survivors, and their families.”
“I realize that this might also be occasion for more victims to come forward and to be appropriately ministered to,” he said. “We continue to pray for victims and survivors of abuse of any kind and especially for those families whose trust in the Church has been broken.”
The Lubbock diocese covers 25 counties in west Texas, with 63 parishes serving more than 136,000 Catholics, the diocese website says.
The Lubbock diocese was created in 1983. The diocese said information about alleged offenders who served in its territory before its creation should be available from the dioceses of Amarillo and San Angelo.