An international search for a Dallas priest accused of molesting three teenage boys is a reminder that Texas should be as concerned as other states about the child sexual abuse allegations that have shaken the Catholic Church.
Father Edmundo Paredes, pastor for 27 years of St. Cecilia Catholic Church, was reported missing Sunday and suspected of fleeing to the Philippines, his native country. The Diocese of Dallas reportedly notified police in February that Paredes was suspected of abusing children, but did not let his parishioners know until Saturday.
Such delays have led to widespread condemnation of the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations. A Pennsylvania grand jury report last week documented abuse by 300 priests of more than 1,000 victims over a period of 70 years in that state. Most of the abusers were allowed to remain in the ministry as priests.
Pope Francis in a letter to Catholics expressed “shame” over the charges and vowed to punish priests guilty of crimes or covering them up: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Francis wrote.
But while the Vatican noted improvements in child protection since a wave of priest scandals were revealed in 2002, many believe it has not done enough.
The Church’s past failures to defrock priests and turn them over to law enforcement have led to a campaign by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to get more states to lift their civil and criminal statutes of limitation to prosecute child sexual abuse cases.
The research group Bishop Accountability wants the Vatican to release the names of all priests convicted under church law of abusing children.
There is no criminal statute of limitation for child sexual abuse in Texas, but victims are given only five years to file civil suits.
With so many traumatized victims only now opening up about the abuse they experienced as children, it makes sense to remove the limit or expand it.
As an alternative, some states are considering opening a temporary “window” for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed.
But the Catholic Church, Jewish and other religious groups, schools, and youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts fear the windows could ruin them financially.
Their fear isn’t groundless.
The Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, filed for bankruptcy in February after 70 sex abuse suits were filed against it during a three-year window.
But fault for that deluge of suits lies with the diocese, which withheld the names of priests accused of crimes that allegedly occurred decades ago until 2014.
The truth needs to come out in Texas, too.