A priest from Richmond is charged with four counts of indecency with a child in Montgomery County where two people claim they were sexually abused almost 20 years ago.
Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez is the pastor at St. John Fisher, but what he's accused of doing happened at another church.
So far, two people have come forward claiming that Father Manuel had touched them inappropriately as teenagers while he was serving at Sacred Heart Church in Conroe. According to court documents, one man claims he was molested on several occasions between 1998 and 2000. A woman claimed she had inappropriate encounters with the priest back in 2000.
Disturbing details from the documents state that Father Manuel had, “...reached underneath her shirt and her bra to touch her breasts with his hands.”
Both victims said part of the reason they decided to come forward now is due to recent media coverage of scandals involving priests like the recent events in Pennsylvania. However, the woman had previously reported her incident to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, who said in a statement that they reported both incidents to Child Protective Services. Part of their statement reads, “Such behavior simply will not be tolerated. To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions.”
FOX 26 tried to speak with parishioners at St. John Fisher, but Mass appeared to be cancelled. Members of the Knights of Columbus who are affiliated with the church also declined to comment.
As for Father La Rosa-Lopez, he was able to post bond out of Montgomery County Jail.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston released this statement:
In 2001, a then-16 year old girl and her family notified this Archdiocese that Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez had kissed and touched her inappropriately when he was assigned as Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart in Conroe. We immediately referred this information to Children’s Protective Services for further investigation. Father La Rosa-Lopez denied touching the girl inappropriately, and the girl’s family decided not to pursue the matter, relocating out of the country that same year. After an internal review, including presentation of the above allegations to the newly founded Archdiocesan Review Board in 2003, Father La Rosa-Lopez was permitted to return to parish ministry in 2004.
Following her return to the U.S., the Archdiocese, in accordance with our commitment to provide pastoral outreach, provided the young woman with counseling services for a period of time, until she decided to discontinue her therapy.
For the last 17 years, no other allegations of inappropriate conduct involving minors were presented against Father La Rosa-Lopez until 2018.
During an interview in Houston on August 10, 2018, a 36 year old man formally presented an allegation to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston stating that Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez sexually abused him from 1998 through 2001, when he was a high school student and Father La Rosa-Lopez was still assigned at Sacred Heart in Conroe. The Archdiocese immediately reported this allegation to Children’s Protective Services as well. Father La Rosa-Lopez has denied these allegations of sexual abuse.
Yesterday, the district attorney of Montgomery County issued an arrest warrant for Father La RosaLopez, which we understand is the result of the above reports. Father La Rosa-Lopez voluntarily turned himself into the Conroe Police Department last evening.
We take these matters very seriously, which is why we reported the information we received from both individuals to CPS – and removed Father La Rosa-Lopez from ministry. We are pledged to cooperate with the civil authorities in their investigation.
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston recognizes it clearly has both a legal and a moral obligation to address any incidence of abuse — sexual or otherwise — to God’s children. Such behavior simply will not be tolerated. To anyone affected by any form of abuse by anyone who represents the Church, the Archdiocese deeply regrets such a fundamental violation of trust, and commits itself to eliminating such unacceptable actions.