HOUSTON -- A Catholic priest has been accused of sexually abusing at least two minors who were serving the church under his leadership, according to the Conroe Police Department.
Father Manuel La Rosa-Lopez has been charged with four counts of indecency with a child.
One victim, a male, decided to come forward after seeing multiple reports surrounding the "Catholic Priest Sex Scandal."
The victim, whose name is not being released because he was a a minor at the time, said from 1998 - 2000, he was a Sacrosant at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church under the guidance of La Rosa-Lopez.
The victim said, during this time, La Rosa-Lopez began touching him and making intimate gestures, which increased in frequency and severity with time. The victim said these gestures culminated in October 1999 when La Rosa-Lopez called him into the sacrisity to move items from the offices and into the Father's living quarters.
The victim said, once inside, La Rosa-Lopez began showing him pictures of partially-naked men from the seminary. Feeling uncomfortable, the victim attempted to leave, but La Rosa-Lopez allegedly prohibited him from doing that. He then sexually assaulted the teen.
The victim kept the abuse private for years until multiple media reports surfaced involving priests and child sexual abuse. He then decide to report the abuse to confidantes at his local parish, who put him in contact with theGalveston/ Houston Archdiocese Victims Assistance Office. An investigation was launched afterward.
Investigators also received reports from another alleged victim, who also decided to come forward after viewing the sex scandal reports in the media.
That victim, a female, was also underage when she was allegedly assaulted by La Rosa-Lopez in 2000.
The victim said she attended Sacred Heart Catholic Church and La Rosa-Lopez was her confessor.
The victim told investigators that La Rosa-Lopez would engage in "heavy petting and kissing" with the teen when she was in his office for confessions. She said he removed his white collar when he sexually assaulted her.
The teen began to believe she was in a "romantic relationship" with the Father and began documenting the encounters in her diary, referring to him as "Felipe." Her father found the diary and, after reading the details, determined that Felipe was, in fact, La Rosa-Lopez and confronted La Rosa-Lopez.
The teen's father also reported what he learned to the head priest and bishop, and La Rosa-Lopez was transferred away. The teen victim was allegedly instructed to "never speak of it again."
In 2010, the victim learned that La Rosa-Lopez received a promotion and was assigned his own church in Richmond, Texas. The now-married victim decided it was time to take action and contacted the Galveston/ Houston Archdiocese.
The victim was advised that La Rosa-Lopez had been sent to a mental institution and then placed in an administrative position, having no contact with children or teenagers. She then verified through church media that was not true, La Rosa Lopez was listed as the priest of St. John the Fisher Church in Richmond, Texas.
After a lengthy investigation of both victims' claims, charges were filed agains the priest.
In response to the case, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said, for their part, they immediately referred the female victim's claims to Children's Protective Services for investigation, and offered the girl counseling. They said the girl's family decided not to pursue the matter and relocated out of the country the same year. After an internal review, La Rosa-Lopez was permitted to return to parish ministry in 2004.
The Archdiocese released a statement that read, in part:
"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.
"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