In Sex Abuse Investigation, Police Raid Catholic Diocese of Dallas
By Nichole Manna
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas has not been forthcoming in sharing information about priests accused of sexually abusing children, police said Wednesday.
Search warrants were executed Wednesday morning and officers were at the diocese offices at around 7:30 a.m. in connection with their investigation into five priests: Edmundo Paredes, 70; Richard Thomas Brown, 77; Alejandro Buitrago, 77; William Joseph Hughes Jr., 63; and Jeremy Myers, 62.
The warrant says investigators believe all five men sexually assaulted children, but that the diocese has not shared all of its information about them.
In a statement, the diocese said it has been cooperating with the investigation and that it was never subpoenaed. The statement also said that officials in the diocese have given police the personnel files of the five priests named in the warrant and "has been involved in ongoing discussions with DPD investigators."
However, a search warrant written by police says the diocese didn't cooperate with the investigation. In one of the cases, the warrant says, a priest was asked by the diocese to investigate himself.
Maj. Max Geron of the Dallas Police Department said the investigation started in August 2018, when police received information from the diocese about allegations against Paredes and financial improprieties.
Geron said the department has interviewed victims, witnesses and suspects. However, the department has not been given a number of personnel files for priests who were flagged for sexual abuse, the warrant says.
Asked if the investigation involves new allegations, Geron said, "I won't address the time frame for the allegations, but I will say they are new allegations that were made to us following the announcement of charges against Paredes."
Geron declined to address the other five men named in the search warrant.
Bishop Edward J. Burns told the media Wednesday afternoon there were "errors" in the warrant but did not elaborate.
Asked to say specifically what was wrong, Burns said he hadn't been able to read the entire search warrant and had been relying on media coverage for information.
"What we'd like to do is indeed demonstrate a transparency and work with (police) and if there is an area they need more information, of course today, they're going to have it," Burns said, later adding that the church is doing everything it can to "create a safe environment."
Asked about a line in the affidavit that says the diocese has denied investigators access to their own internal investigators, Burns said he has not denied "anything to anyone."
"It is in the spirit of this diocese that we're going to work collaboratively with the Dallas Police Department," he said. "The police department is able to speak with whoever they want."
Burns said the diocese hired a six-member investigative team to look into more than 2,400 priest files, but did not reveal the identity of those investigators.
Edmundo Paredes was accused of sexually abusing minors at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Dallas. He's the only man out of the five who has an active arrest warrant against him. Police also executed search warrants at the church and a storage facility.
Diocese officials said they learned about the accusations in February and said they immediately made a police report, but "respected the victims' request not to make the allegations public."
The accusations came from three men who said that criminal sexual acts occurred when they were in their mid-teens. The diocese said they found the accusations to be credible. One victim said he was abused by Paredes from 1994 to 1999.
Before the allegations were made public, Paredes was removed from the ministry in June 2017 -- after he was accused of financial misconduct at his parish.
He has since left the Dallas area and his whereabouts are unknown, according to a report from The Dallas Morning News. The diocese told the paper he may have returned to the Philippines.
Geron said the warrants were executed to search for any documentation or data that would help further their investigation.
Earlier this year, dioceses across Texas, including Dallas, released lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors.
The list in Dallas included 31 names, including those who were named in the search warrant.
-- Brown is on leave. He was removed in 2002. A woman said she was sexually assaulted by Brown in the 1980s when she went to Holy Family Catholic Church in Irving. The woman told the diocese about the abuse in 2004, but there was no documentation of that conversation in Brown's file -- which was 541 pages, the warrant says. When police notified the diocese about the missing files, an additional 51 pages were provided to them. However, only a few contained any information involving the allegation, the warrant says.
-- Buitrago retired in 2017 and was removed from the diocese in 2019. His status is retired with faculties suspended. He is accused of sexual assault against a girl who attended St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano. The warrant says she told the church about the allegations in 2015 but never heard back. Dallas police contacted Plano police to see if the allegations were reported and there were no records of Buitrago or the victim.
-- Hughes was removed in 1989, seven years after he was ordained. He was accused of sexually assaulting a minor over the course of a year. However, the warrant says there was nothing in his 319-page file about the accusation. A civil lawsuit was filed against Hughes in 1994. The lawsuit was settled four years later after Hughes admitted to the abuse, the warrant says.
-- Myers is suspended. He was removed from the diocese in 2018. Dallas investigators received information from Safe Environment that Myers was accused of sexual assault. He was a priest at St. Mary's Parish in Sherman. The victim told police that the abuse happened in 1986.
Burns said that while none of the men live on the church's property, the diocese is "providing for their needs."
To determine whether a priest was added to the list of "credibly accused," the church's investigators reviewed files and the Diocesan Review Board considered the accusation and determined whether it believed it was credible.
"Bishop Burns had the final say whether that priest would make the 'credibly accused' list," the warrant says.
The diocese's attorneys told police during a Jan. 16 meeting that two deceased priests and one living priest who were accused didn't make the "credibly-accused" list. However, during a second meeting on Jan. 30, a representative of the diocese told police that they will "likely never know" the number of priests who were accused but didn't make the list.
There were also no reports made to the state department of Child Protective Services about any of the allegations, according to the warrant.
SNAP -- the survivors network for victims of of sexual abuse in institutional settings -- responded to the reports and said they applaud Texas law enforcement for "raiding the 'secret archives'" of the diocese.
"Institutions cannot police themselves and it is only through strong action from law enforcement that the full truth of their scandals can be revealed," the organization said.
Geron said there is no way to know how many victims there are. He asked that victims or anyone with information call the Dallas Police Child Exploitation Squad at 214-671-4211.
(c)2019 the Fort Worth Star-Telegram