CONROE, Texas - A former Conroe priest has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on two charges of indecency with a child.
Manuel La Rosa-Lopez pleaded guilty in November and was formally sentenced on Wednesday.
According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, the sentences of 10 years were pursuant to a plea agreement and will run concurrently.
La Rosa-Lopez is in custody at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and is awaiting transfer to prison.
Officials say the charges stem from two decades ago when La Rosa-Lopez was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Conroe.
Authorities say two people reported the abuse to Conroe police in 2018. La Rosa-Lopez was arrested on September 11 that year.
Officials say two more victims came forward after his arrest and reported that La Rosa-Lopez abused them when they were children.
According to the district attorney’s office, the victims were between the ages of 13 and 16 at the time and were heavily involved in the Catholic Church, considering La Rosa-Lopez as their spiritual leader and mentor.
The district attorney’s office says the victims reported La Rosa-Lopez kissing them, exposing himself to them, and touching them inappropriately on numerous occasions.
Victims advocate Michael Norris says the 10-year sentence is not long enough.
“It never is long enough. It never is long enough, because the four victims that I have been in contact with—they’re gonna live with the abuse for the rest of their life," Norris said. "La Rosa Lopez is actually getting off easy.”
Norris says La Rosa Lopez’ abuses were first reported to the church in 1993, then again in 2000, but the priest was not prosecuted.
Norris recommends reporting abuse to the police and not the church.
"Go straight to the police. Don’t ever, ever go to the church. Their first priority is always to protect the church—to protect the priest. You as the victim—they could care less about you. I’m telling you that."