Vatican Is Asked to Suspend Flores

By J. Michael Parker
San Antonio Express-News [Texas]
April 6, 2002

Two women(***SEE CORRECTION***) suing the Archdiocese of San Antonio have formally asked Pope John Paul II to remove Archbishop Patrick Flores and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Flanagan from priestly ministry for at least two years, alleging they allowed continued sexual misconduct by a priest.

Flores said he wouldn't respond publicly to any of the allegations made in the lawsuits, which were filed last year, or the more recent petition to Rome, which was sent by their lawyer.

Flanagan has declined comment on the allegations in the past and was out of town Friday, his secretary said.

The petition to the Vatican claims the archdiocese is "out of control" based on the testimony of priests accused in several sexual misconduct lawsuits and Flores' own testimony in the case against Father Xavier Dietz, who is now serving a 20-year prison term for aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child.

"They're just after money," Flores said. "We've sent our answer to Rome, and we'll wait and see what happens."

Jerrilynn Marie White and Julie Villegas Phelps(***SEE CORRECTION***) filed separate lawsuits in state district court here last June, both claiming Father Michael Christopher Kenny, now 53, seduced them when they were 17 and 20, respectively, and continued the relationships while he was an assistant pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Parish and later pastor at Resurrection of the Lord Parish.

White, a former employee at several local parishes, charged in her $5 million slander lawsuit that Flores later told her co-workers about confidential allegations she made in a church court against Kenny.

Flores said last year he'd never discussed her complaint until after she'd announced her lawsuit in the news media.

Phelps' suit asked for unspecified damages, saying that Kenny once had sex with her in front of her two minor children while she was heavily medicated.

The complaint to Rome states that archdiocesan officials - including Flanagan, Kenny's former pastor at St. Vincent de Paul when the relationship with White began - failed to monitor Kenny's late-night activities as a young priest.

It adds that while Flores suspended Kenny's priestly faculties in 1999 after White made her initial complaint, he has never attempted to ask Vatican officials to defrock any priest for sexual misconduct.

In a deposition, Kenny admitted White's allegation that he fathered a son by her.

"Basically, the Archdiocese doesn't follow its own policies," said Doug Sutter, attorney for the two women. The complaint also cites a pending suit against the archdiocese charging that a priest at St. Matthew's Parish, Father Michael Yarbrough, kissed and groped a parish employee, Hector Escalante, 27.

In a deposition, the priest said Escalante misunderstood the intention of the kiss and denied groping him.

CORRECTION-DATE: April 9, 2002


Because of a reporting error, a story on Page 7B of Saturday's editions misidentified the woman with whom Father Michael Kenny had a child. The mother of the child is not one of the two women suing the Archdiocese of San Antonio over Kenny's sexual activities.

Contact: J. Michael Parker


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