Abuse survivors push for head of U.S. bishops to resign amid allegations of cover-ups in Iowa, Texas

Abuse survivors push for head of U.S. bishops to resign amid allegations of cover-ups in Iowa, Texas
World-Herald News Service

A national organization of priest sexual abuse survivors is stepping up its push for Cardinal Daniel DiNardo to resign as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says DiNardo, formerly bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, is unfit to lead the bishops’ response to the latest Catholic sexual abuse crisis because of allegations that he covered up abuse by priests in Iowa and Texas. Tim Lennon, president of SNAP’s board of directors, and others plan a press conference Saturday in Sioux City.

U.S. bishops are expected to take measures to address the crisis after they, led by DiNardo, meet in February with Pope Francis and other bishops in Rome.

SNAP had called for DiNardo to step down in November. He has since been accused of covering up sexual abuse in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, Lennon said. Agents of the Texas Rangers and other law enforcement served search warrants on DiNardo’s archdiocese headquarters in November.

With the Sioux City event Saturday, SNAP is renewing its call for DiNardo’s resignation because of the Texas allegations, and in hopes that more victims of priest sexual abuse in Iowa will come forward, Lennon said. DiNardo did not respond to a request for comment that The World-Herald made through the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese on Friday.

DiNardo has been a leader in the bishops’ response to sexual abuse revelations that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States this year, including a Pennsylvania grand jury report and charges of abuse of minors by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. DiNardo has urged the church to be fully transparent, and he pressed for reforms when U.S. bishops convened about the issue in November.

Lennon cited two main reasons for asserting that DiNardo is the wrong person to lead the response. One has to do with a 30-year cover-up in Iowa. The other involves allegations from this year in Texas.

DiNardo was one in a series of Sioux City bishops who failed to reveal the Rev. Jerry Coyle’s admission in 1986 that he had abused approximately 50 junior high and high school boys over 20 years in several Iowa parishes. The diocese kept Coyle’s admission secret until this fall, when the Associated Press revealed Coyle’s history.

Coyle had self-reported to then-Bishop Lawrence Soens in 1986. Soens, who has since been accused of sexual abuse himself, removed Coyle from active ministry and sent him to New Mexico for treatment at the time. But neither Soens nor his successors, including DiNardo, reported Coyle to law enforcement or told parishioners.

The Sioux City Diocese only admitted it in October of this year, when the AP was poised to reveal the cover-up — and the fact that the diocese had helped Coyle move this year from New Mexico into a home across the street from a Catholic school in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

DiNardo was bishop of Sioux City from 1998 to 2004. He was named co-adjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004, and took over that Texas archdiocese in 2006.

DiNardo has been accused this fall of mishandling the case of one Texas priest accused of sexual abuse, and of allowing two others to remain in ministry even though he knew about allegations they had sexually abused children.

One was the Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, whom Conroe, Texas, police arrested in September. The priest has been charged with four counts of indecency with a child.

DiNardo wrote in an opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle that he removed La Rosa-Lopez from ministry after a man reported in August 2018 that the priest had abused him in the 1990s.

There had been previous allegations about La Rosa-Lopez, including one before DiNardo took over in Galveston-Houston. He was in charge there in 2010 when a female victim told the archdiocese that La Rosa-Lopez had abused her. DiNardo was aware of her report — he met with the victim in 2011 — yet the cardinal allowed the priest to remain in parish ministry, according to news reports.

CBS News reported in November that DiNardo had failed to act on allegations against two other priests, the Rev. John Keller and the Rev. Terry Brinkman, in his Texas archdiocese, both of whom remained in active ministry. DiNardo told CBS that the accusations were not credible. In the opinion piece in the Chronicle, DiNardo wrote that an archdiocesan review board had “reviewed the facts and recommended that both priests be allowed to continue in ministry.”

But Lennon, who came forward in 2016 to say that he was raped by a priest in 1960 while growing up in Sioux City, said DiNardo’s history reflected the church’s pattern of cover-ups and moving accused priests from parish to parish.