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Cardinal DiNardo calls CBS News series ‘inaccurate'

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HOUSTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston called a series of news stories by CBS News on the church sex abuse scandal "inaccurate," saying they "demand a response."

"In these stories, CBS alleges that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has allowed priests who have been 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse against a minor to continue their ministry as priests," said the cardinal, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The archdiocese responded to over 30 questions submitted to it by CBS News this past weekend, only to see almost all of our responses completely ignored by the CBS team," he added in a statement released Nov. 21.

In a story that aired Nov. 20, CBS News reported on allegations made against Fathers Terence Brinkman and John Keller, who are in active ministry in Houston.

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo confirmed the two priests each had had an accusation of abuse lodged against them, which they both denied, he said. The respective incidents occurred decades ago, the cardinal said, and a lay board reviewed them and concluded the priests should stay in ministry.

"It is true that two priests remain in ministry who have each been accused of sexually abusing a minor," Cardinal DiNardo said. "One accusation was made approximately 20 years after the alleged abuse. The other was made over 30 years after the alleged abuse. Both priests denied they had committed sexual abuse.

"Each accusation was reviewed by the archdiocesan lay review board who recommended that both priests be allowed to minister," he continued. "These are the only accusations made against either priest, who have each served more than 40 years in the archdiocese."

CBS News interviewed a man named John LaBonte, who said that in 2002 he spoke to archdiocesan officials about Father Keller, who LaBonte said had "fondled" him during an overnight parish trip when LaBonte was 16.

LaBonte told CBS he felt it was his "duty as a Catholic" to talk about what he said happened to him.

The archdiocese supplied CBS with a letter saying Father Keller had acknowledged holding LaBonte in an "inappropriate manner for a priest" but he denied there was any "sexual intent."

CBS News in its report did quote a statement from Cardinal DiNardo, who has headed the archdiocese since 2006. "I want to assure my brothers and sisters in Christ that we are cooperating, and will cooperate, fully with any investigation involving possible abuse," he said. "While the church as a whole has made important strides especially since 2002 in addressing this evil, we still have important work to do. We can, and will, do better."

Cardinal DiNardo's Nov. 21 statement on the CBS News coverage included a comment from the archdiocese pointing out that before the bishops' Nov. 12-14 fall assembly in Baltimore, the cardinal had spent much of the last two months in Rome attending the Synod of Bishops and "otherwise working with the top leadership urging action on the abuse scandal."

In an interview with Catholic News Service in Rome Oct. 22, Cardinal DiNardo said that while the clerical sexual abuse crisis did not dominate discussions at the synod of Bishops, it was discussed and that everyone in the room clearly believed the crisis has to be dealt with.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB conference vice president, who also was in Rome for the synod, met privately with Pope Francis in early October to discuss the handling of years of allegations of sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington.


Contributing to this story was Julie Asher in Washington.



© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018