Settlement Reached in Suit against Former Priest

Associated Press State & Local Wire
February 27, 2003

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Amarillo has settled a lawsuit that claimed a former priest fathered a child with a teenage girl and diocese officials conspired to hide sexual abuse by priests.

The suit, filed in July, alleged the former priest, Rosendo Herrera, impregnated a 17-year-old girl. It also said the diocese failed to report previous sexual abuse by Herrera when he was a priest, as required by state law.

The diocese, Bishop John W. Yanta and former Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen were named as defendants.

Under the settlement, the diocese agreed to purchase $27,150 in annuities that will be paid to a girl the suit alleges was fathered by Herrera. The payments will begin in 2020 and continue through 2027. The diocese also agreed to pay $700 into a trust account for the child's mother.

Herrera, who was not named as a defendent, was placed on administrative leave in December 2000 and granted lay status in March 2001, according to the diocese.

The suit alleged that Herrera continued to serve as spiritual adviser to the family until September 2001, when the girl's parents discovered she was pregnant.

The settlement, approved Wednesday by 47th District Judge Hal Miner, releases the diocese, Yanta and Matthiesen from all claims arising out of the suit.

Calls to diocese attorney Fred Griffin and the defendent's attorney, Clay Holcomb, were not immediately returned Thursday.

The suit also alleged the diocese conspired to cover up sexual abuse by other priests. They were not named in the suit.

The plaintiffs said the diocese was negligent in hiring Herrera and knew or should have known that he posed a risk.

Herrera, 37, had a history of sexual abuse in Mexico before being ordained in Amarillo, the suit alleged. The diocese failed to properly investigate Herrera's background, according to the suit.

Herrera was ordained in 1996, according to the diocese of Amarillo, and was pastor in Dalhart, Pampa and Amarillo.

The suit claimed that in 1997 the Amarillo diocese sent Herrera for counseling related to sexual problems. After the counseling, the suit said, several incidents of improper behavior were reported when he was at two Amarillo churches.


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