Dallas Police Raid Catholic Diocese After Church Officials ‘Thwarted’ Investigations Into Allegations of Priests’ Sexual Abuse

A Dallas Police vehicle outside St. Cecilia Catholic Church on W. Davis in Dallas, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Dallas police officers on Wednesday morning executed a search warrant at the Dallas Catholic Diocese’s offices. A police spokesman said warrants will be executed at various diocese offices throughout Dallas. The raids come as the Catholic Church locally and worldwide continues to deal with its sex abuse crisis and allegations of cover-ups. As part of a transparency effort, all Catholic dioceses in Texas —including Dallas — in January published lists of clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors since 1950. That announcement followed the August revelation that Edmundo Paredes, the longtime pastor at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Oak Cliff, was credibly accused of molesting three teenage boys in the parish over a decade ago. Diocese officials said Paredes also allegedly stole from the church. (Dave Tarrant/The Dallas Morning News)

Dallas police raided Dallas Catholic Diocese offices Wednesday morning after a detective said church officials had “thwarted” his investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by priests.Detective David Clark wrote in a search warrant affidavit that he had uncovered new allegations against priests while the diocese hid past ones, turned over incomplete records and made it nearly impossible for police to determine whether accusers’ claims had been fully examined. Clark also took the diocese to task for its recent transparency efforts, characterizing them as primarily a public-relations effort.

Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns said at an afternoon news conference that the diocese had provided personnel files “for all the priests named in the warrant” and had been cooperating with the police requests.

Burns said that, throughout the “collaboration with the police, there are some who are not satisfied and want to look for themselves.”

“We know we have given them the files,” he said. “And so we say, ‘By all means, look.'”

‘Wholly appropriate’

Police investigators will do so. Officers, along with federal authorities, took files from the diocese’s headquarters, a storage site and St. Cecilia, a Catholic church in Oak Cliff, where the priest who sparked the investigation previously served.

Police Maj. Max Geron, who oversees the special investigations division, called the raids “wholly appropriate” for the investigation.

Wednesday’s raid is one of many such recent actions by law enforcement against the Catholic Church across the country. Authorities in at least a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey and Florida, have announced investigations into allegations of sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by church officials. And in November, prosecutors armed with a subpoena searched the offices of the Houston-Galveston Diocese, headed by Cardinal Daniel Dinardo, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Dallas Diocese, like other dioceses and religious orders, had promoted transparency measures in recent months as the Catholic Church locally and worldwide continues to deal with its sex abuse crisis and allegations of cover-ups. On Jan. 31, all Catholic dioceses in Texas — including Dallas — published lists of clergy members “credibly accused” of sexual abuse of minors since 1950.

Dallas Diocese officials said they had hired a team of former law enforcement investigators to comb through the diocese’s files to compile its list of 31 names. Seventeen people on the list were dead. And most of the allegations had already been reported.

But since the police investigation into one of the diocese’s priests began last fall, at least five new allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced within the Dallas Diocese, Geron said. The new accusations involve five priests already on the “credibly accused” list released by the diocese in January.

Paredes case

At the center of the affidavit is the August revelation that Edmundo Paredes, the longtime pastor at St. Cecilia, had been credibly accused of molesting three teenage boys in the parish over a decade ago. Diocese officials said Paredes also allegedly stole from the church.

The affidavit says the police investigation began Feb. 28, 2018, when Mary Edlund, then chancellor of the diocese, contacted the Dallas Police Department’s Child Exploitation Unit about allegations made against Paredes.

Clark, the detective, wrote that the only reason Edlund contacted police was that the diocese knew the allegations would be made public and spark media attention. The affidavit alleges that Edlund told Clark “it would look better to say they contacted the police.”

Police said the allegations against Paredes date back decades and had been known by church officials since at least 2006.

According to the affidavit, Edlund told Clark that Paredes’ file, which had been turned over to law enforcement, should contain information about 2006 meetings regarding the priest.

But, Clark wrote in the affidavit, the “file did not contain any information regarding the 2006 meeting between parishioners and Chancellor Edlund.”

Edlund, who retired in September after 40 years with the diocese, did not respond to a request for comment.

Clark wrote that he reached out to the diocese’s attorney Bill Sims, who told the detective that the diocese and victims who had come forward were in the “monetary settlement process.” The attorney also told the detective “he believed the victims did not want to pursue criminal allegations,” according to the affidavit.

The settlement details have been kept confidential.

The sexual abuse allegations against Paredes were made public in August. Burns, the Dallas bishop, told St. Cecilia parishioners that officials believed Paredes had fled to his native country, the Philippines.

In January, Dallas police — who assigned Clark to investigate sexual abuse allegations against clergy members in the city — issued an arrest warrant for the former Oak Cliff priest after a new accuser emerged.

Shortly afterward, the diocese released its list of “credibly accused” priests.

Burns said at the time that the list was part of an effort to be “accountable.”

“The church of today has implemented reforms to safeguard those in our care,” Burns said. “Going forward, we must remain vigilant. We cannot grow lukewarm.”

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SOURCE: The Dallas Morning News, David Tarrant Cassandra Jaramillo, and Robert Wilonsky